Psychosis is a symptom that individuals with a psychotic disorder experience. If you have a psychotic disorder, you may hear voices, have delusions, or have misperceptions about the world around you. Individuals experiencing psychosis 'lose touch' with reality; they may have trouble determining what is real and what is not; they may see or hear things that are not there.

This symptom is usually first noticed in young adulthood - around 100,000 young adults have their first psychotic episode each year. If you or someone that you love is experiencing psychosis or a psychotic condition, you should contact your doctor. Psychotic episodes can sometimes lead to dangerous behaviors, impacting both the person experiencing it and the people around them. 

Symptoms

Your doctor will have tests that can be performed to determine if you or your loved one are having a psychotic episode. It’s important that you talk to your doctor as soon as you notice any symptoms of psychosis, including:

  • Hallucinations, which can be visual or auditory; hallucinations can even include scents and false memories
  • Delusions, including failure to understand or face reality in current or past events
  • Difficulty separating fact from fiction or grasping reality
  • Not engaging in self-care, including bathing, eating, and cleaning
  • Irrational fears or ideas about enemies, government agencies, celebrities, or other groups or people, even family members
  • Religious delusions that may include hearing a deity’s or a god's voice, or having a special relationship with religious figures
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Trouble communicating in speech or writing
  • Extreme suspiciousness or paranoia
  • A constant feeling of being watched
  • An inability to sleep or concentrate

Causes

There is no defined cause for psychosis. However, several risk factors can increase the likelihood of developing psychosis, including:

  • A family history of psychosis, schizophrenia, or other psychotic disorders
  • Brain diseases, tumors, or cysts
  • Dementia, such as Alzheimer's disease
  • HIV or other infections that affect the brain
  • Alcohol and drug misuse
  • Certain prescription drugs
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Some types of epilepsy
  • Strokes or other brain injuries, including traumatic brain injuries
  • Genetic disorders, including lack of a chromosome

Treatment

There is help available to address psychosis. Your care team can help you make decisions about what combination of treatments is right for you.  

Medication: Many types of medication can be used to help control the symptoms of your psychosis. Your doctor may prescribe antipsychotic drugs or other medications. 

Therapy: Both inpatient hospital treatment and outpatient therapeutic options may help you manage an episode of psychosis and learn to better control these symptoms. Learn more about your treatment options at Sheppard Pratt. 

Support: Good support is important as you treat your psychosis and any other mental health conditions that are affecting you. Find a support group at Sheppard Pratt.