What Is Psychosis?

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According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), psychosis is characterized as disruptions to a person’s thoughts and perceptions that make it difficult for them to recognize what is real and what isn’t. More commonly it can be summarized as individual’s struggling to ground themselves in reality. When a person is experiencing a psychosis, it can be challenging for them to maintain forms of employment, connect to others, and tend to basic functional skills. 

What symptoms are present during psychosis?

A clarification should be noted of psychosis being a symptom and not an illness. Within a psychosis, different symptoms can present themselves in each unique case. Common experiences that present itself for individuals are seeing, hearing, or believing different things that are not real or based in reality. One of the earliest warning signs that is present for a person is their loss of contact with reality. Being able to detect early warning signs in an individual is key towards obtaining the proper steps necessary to help treat their mental health overall. 

Various warning signs can include:

  • Difficulty in concentration
  • Increased isolation or spending time alone than usual
  • Disconnection from feelings and emotions
  • Uneasiness of others or suspicious feelings
  • Decrease in employment and job responsibilities
  • Showing deficiency in daily functional skills


Hallucinations and delusions are two top factors that contribute to an active psychosis. Different perceptions of things people believe they can see, hear, taste, feel, smell, can all be distorted and altered when hallucinations are present. The two most common hallucinations individuals experience are in the form of both auditory and visual phenomenon. 

Delusions are beliefs or altered reality that is constant and persistent for the individual that is untrue or not real. Paranoia can be present for the person where they believe they are being watched, poisoned, or mistreated. Six different types of delusions exist that include: erotomania, grandiose, jealous, persecutory, somatic, and mixed. 

  • Erotomania is displayed as a person believing someone, commonly one of importance or is famous, has feelings or is in love with them. 
  • Grandiose is when a person expresses great sense of worth or power, knowledge, or identity in relation to others.
  • Jealous is when the individual believes that their partner, spouse, or sexual partner is being unfaithful. 
  • Persecutory is the paranoia of being watched, followed, or spied on by others with a plan or intent to harm them. 
  • Somatic presents when a person believes a physical or medical deficiency is present for them.
  • Mixed symptoms can also be identified as exhibiting two or more types of delusions in an individual.

Causes of Psychosis

Researchers are still gathering information regarding the exact cause that leads one to experience psychosis. But there have been strides made in the direction of identifying several factors that are likely to be involved. As for the demographics of a person that are most vulnerable to experiencing a psychosis, teenagers and young adults are at risk due to hormonal changes in the brain throughout puberty. 

psychosis

Various factors can include:

  • Genetics: Different genes can overall contribute to psychosis, but it is important to note just because someone has the gene does not mean they will experience a psychosis. 
  • Trauma: People who have experienced a traumatic event can possibly trigger a psychotic episode. 
  • Substance Use: Individuals who are vulnerable to mental illness and then engage in various substances can also increase their risk of psychosis. 
  • Physical Illness or Injury: Many different illnesses or injuries such as strokes, Alzheimer’s disease, or traumatic brain injuries can sometimes cause psychosis. 
  • Mental Health Conditions: At times psychosis can be a symptom of diagnoses like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and schizoaffective disorder. 

Treatment for Psychosis 

Two main approaches can be prepared when treating psychosis through psychotherapy and medication management. Different types of therapy can be utilized when managing the person’s condition where medication helps targets to reduce the symptoms and their impact. 

Additional components that are worthy of integrating in a person’s treatment would be proper psychoeducation, family support, and peer/community support. 

Resources

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)
Very Well Health
ScienceDirect
Medline Plus