Skip to main content

Conditions: Psychosis

What is psychosis?

Psychosis refers to a state whereby people lose some contact with reality. This might involve seeing or hearing things that other people cannot see or hear (hallucinations) and believing things that are not actually true (delusions).

Hallucinations involve hearing, seeing and, in some cases, feeling, smelling, or tasting things that do not exist outside their mind but can feel very real to the person affected by them; a common hallucination is hearing voices.

Delusions refers to having very strong beliefs that are not shared by others; a common delusion is someone believing there's a conspiracy to harm them. The combination of hallucinations and delusional thinking can cause severe distress and a change in behaviour. Under certain circumstances, it’s important to seek emergency psychiatric help.

Psychosis can be triggered by adversity and traumatic experiences, stress, drug and alcohol misuse, side effects of prescribed medication or certain physical conditions such as brain tumour.

Are your difficulties linked to anything specific?

 Schizophrenia – a condition that causes a range of psychological symptoms, including hallucinations and delusions; many experiences and behaviours can be part of Schizophrenia and each person’s experience is unique. The onset can be sudden, or the symptoms and difficulties may develop gradually over time. It is common to also experience a lack of interest in things, self-neglect, feeling disconnected from your emotions, having difficulty concentrating and wanting to avoid people. You may also experience disorganised thinking and speech; this may manifest itself in racing thoughts whereby your thoughts go through your head very fast, and it can feel like they are out of control. It can also manifest itself in a so-called “flight of ideas” where your thoughts move very quickly from idea to idea, making links and seeing meaning between things that other people do not. Consequently, you may stumble over your words and speak very fast, link words together based on their sound rather than meaning (“word salad”), you may change the topics of conversations rapidly and find it hard to concentrate or pay attention to one thing.

 Bipolar Disorder – a mental health condition that affects mood; a person with bipolar disorder can have episodes of low mood (depression) and highs or elated mood (mania)

 Severe Depression – some people with depression also have symptoms of psychosis when they're very depressed

When to seek help?

  • The early symptoms of psychosis may be difficult to recognise but may include moodiness, sleep difficulty, poor performance, social withdrawal, lack of interest and enjoyment which can then progress to unusual and anomalous experiences such as thinking others can read your mind, paranoia, misperceiving events, or hearing and seeing things; these experiences can then increase in intensity and frequency.

Emergency Psychiatric Help is required if:

  • Thoughts about suicide are expressed

  • You are hearing disturbing voices, especially voices that command suicide or injury to yourself or others

  • You are experiencing uncontrollable anxiety

  • You are exhibiting manic or otherwise bizarre behaviour, severe depression, disorientation, or extreme confusion

  • You are feeling uncontrollable anger

Treatment recommendations

With the right level of support and intervention, it is possible to manage the symptoms of psychosis and to recover. At times this may mean that the experience of psychosis will not go away entirely but psychological therapy can help you can learn to understand your triggers and meaning behind the symptoms and learn ways of preventing future episodes as well as coping with them better so that your experiences are less distressing and do not interfere with your life as much.

Back to What We Do Page

Back to Top