What is Psychosis?
Psychosis is a broad term referring to when a person has perceptions and experiences that don’t exist in reality. The experiences are typically sensory in nature and make it difficult for the person to differentiate between what’s happening in reality and what’s happening only in his or her own mind. Hallucinations or delusions experienced during a psychotic episode especially may prevent the affected individual from being able to recognize reality.
Experiences in psychosis may be seen or heard. Psychosis may also encompass beliefs that aren’t rooted in reality. Experiencing psychosis may be bewildering and induce feelings of extreme anxiety. Someone experiencing psychosis can have episodes of extreme emotion and unintentionally hurt themselves or others, which is a significant risk.
Psychosis is generally seen as a symptom of other conditions, rather than a condition in and of itself. Conditions that may induce psychosis include:
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Bipolar Disorder
Symptoms of Psychosis
Psychotic episodes generally consist of two main symptoms: hallucinations and delusions.
A hallucination is a visual or auditory sensation that isn’t real and occurs only in the affected individual’s mind. Hallucinations can also be bizarre sensations or feelings that don’t make sense in the context of reality. During a hallucination, things or people may be distorted or appear when they’re not actually there. An auditory hallucination during a psychotic episode often takes the form of voices that are only heard inside the individual’s mind.
Delusions are thoughts or beliefs that may not be rooted in truth, go against the individual’s cultural norms, or are perceived as senseless to others. Delusions that occur during a psychotic episode may be confusing to both the affected individual and the people around them examples of delusions include:
- The belief that commonplace or inconsequential things, events, or objects have great significance, meaning, or power.
- The belief that extrinsic powers have control over your mind, body, and behaviors
- The belief that you have other-worldly powers or the powers of God
How is Psychosis Treated?
Psychosis treatment may involve mediations and/or psychotherapy. Treatment of psychosis also may vary depending on the type of psychosis that’s experienced. Psychosis may be most effectively treated early on (ideally during the very first episode).
Antipsychotic drugs are one of the most common treatments for psychosis. These drugs can lessen the symptoms of psychotic episodes but aren’t effective in curing the problem or treating the conditions that may cause psychosis. Antipsychotic drugs are often used to ease symptoms in people who suffer from schizophrenia and related conditions.
Psychotherapy may be helpful in the treatment of conditions that cause psychosis (such as alcohol or drug abuse, PTSD, schizophrenia, and others) as well as the symptoms that accompany psychosis like social isolation, abnormal emotional states, etc. Cognitive behavioral therapy may be especially helpful in these circumstances. This therapy method can help reduce hallucinations and delusions by identifying thought patterns that may trigger psychotic episodes.