This page contains information about psychosis, including how it is diagnosed and treated, and psychosis support. You may find this helpful if you are supporting a whānau member who experiences psychotic episodes.
- Psychosis is a state of mind in which a person loses touch with reality.
- There are many psychosis symptoms and they can be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain.
- You can treat psychosis with therapies and medication.
- Early treatment of psychosis is important to reduce the risk of a serious mental illness developing.
What is psychosis?
Psychosis is a state of mind in which a person loses touch with reality. Psychosis itself is not an illness. However, it can be a symptom caused by some mental illnesses. This symptom is called a psychotic episode.
What causes psychosis?
Psychosis can be caused by:
- Developing mental illness, such as schizophrenia or bipolar mood disorder
- Excessive intake or abuse of alcohol and drugs
- Reactions to emotional stress caused by severe personal trauma
- Physical injury or the onset of another illness
- A chemical imbalance in the brain
A chemical imbalance that interrupts the normal transmission of information from one part of the brain to another can result in many of the symptoms of psychosis.
Types and Symptoms
What are the early signs of a psychotic episode?
Early signs of a psychotic episode can be hard to detect but can include:
- A drop in grades or job performance
- Declining self-care and personal hygiene
- Sleep disturbances
- Changes in appetite
- Difficulty concentrating and remembering things
- Strong and inappropriate emotional responses, or none at all
- Spending more time alone than usual and feeling withdrawn
- Becoming suspicious of others
- Feeling depressed, anxious, tense, irritable and/or angry
- Confused thinking
Everyday thoughts can become jumbled making it hard to remember things or follow a conversation. This affects a person’s ability to express themselves clearly.
A combination of some of the signs above can indicate a person is experiencing the early stages of a psychotic episode.
What are the symptoms of a psychotic episode?
Symptoms of a psychotic episode include:
A delusion is a fixed or false belief that is not shared by others of similar culture and/or is inconsistent with the affected person’s social background. There are a variety of different types of delusions:
1. Paranoid delusion
A paranoid delusion involves believing you are being watched or singled out for some sort of harmful purpose, or are disliked.
2. Grandiose delusion
A grandiose delusion involves believing you have special powers.
3. Depressive delusion
A depressive delusion is a belief of personal guilt or responsibility for some horrific event that you had no direct part in, or believing you are not fit to be with others.
4. Delusion of control
A delusion of control involves believing an outside force is controlling your thoughts, feelings or actions.
Hallucinations include seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting or feeling something that is not physically there. Hearing voices that no-one else can hear is the most common type of hallucination.
During a psychotic episode, the affected person can experience an extreme change in the way they feel and express emotions.
There is sometimes a sense of flatness, often called blunted affect, where they feel less than they used to or experience an elevated mood.
Someone experiencing a psychotic episode will often behave differently from normal.
Treatment and Self-Care
Can psychosis be treated?
Yes. Early treatment is important as this can reduce the risk of a serious mental illness developing.
It is also important to recognise the signs of psychosis early, as the longer psychosis goes untreated the greater the disruption to the affected person and their whānau.
How is psychosis treated?
Determining the best treatment will depend on factors such as how severe the symptoms are, how long they have been present and what the apparent cause is.
The symptoms of psychosis are best treated with medication, which can provide a rapid decrease in symptoms and relief for the affected person.
Whānau psychosis support, specialised types of counselling and psychotherapy can help reduce stress levels.
Early psychosis intervention increases the chances of a rapid recovery.
Whānau Psychosis Support
How can I support someone who is experiencing psychosis?
It is best to seek professional help when supporting someone with psychosis. Remember, it is important to take care of yourself as well.
Our self-care and mindfulness guides contain ways to help improve your wellbeing whilst supporting a loved one experiencing mental health challenges.
How Yellow Brick Road can help you
Every day we set out to ensure whānau feel listened to, supported, equipped and ultimately confident to overcome the challenges they face.
If you are concerned about a whānau member experiencing psychosis, our whānau support workers can help you by providing psychosis support, information, education and advocacy services, such as:
- Listening to your concerns and questions
- Helping you create an action plan that supports you and your loved one throughout their recovery journey
- Providing books, articles and information about locally available services
- Support groups
Our services are free and confidential. Contact us today to find out more.
Useful psychosis websites
This website contains useful psychosis information, including:
The Mental Health Foundation NZ has information about postnatal psychosis, including signs to look out for and treatments:
The Starship website has information to help you understand how psychosis can affect rangatahi:
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