Seeing Psychosis: Signs and Symptoms
Psychosis is a mental health disorder which causes people to interpret or perceive things in a different way from other people around them. Sometimes, this takes the form of delusions or hallucinations. Psychosis is a frightening problem, both for the person who is suffering and those around them witnessing the way the condition affects them. Here, we take a closer look at how to spot the signs of this condition and how it can be treated.
What Are The Symptoms Of Psychosis?
There are four primary psychosis symptoms:
- Hallucinations – this involves someone hearing, seeing, feeling, smelling or tasting something which isn’t really there. One of the most common hallucinations is being able to hear voices.
- Delusions – this involves someone believing something that others around them don’t believe. For example, some common forms of delusion include when somebody believes there’s some kind of conspiracy to hurt them or when someone thinks they are ruling the country.
- Disturbed and confusing thoughts. The signs of this include constant and rapid speech or disturbed speech, switching between topics in the middle of a sentence. They may also lose their train of thought which causes abrupt pauses in activities or conversation.
- A lack of self-awareness and insight. People suffering from psychosis often don’t realize their hallucinations or delusions aren’t real. This causes them to feel distress and fear.
When delusions and hallucinations combine, the result can be behavior changes and severe distress. When someone experiences psychosis symptoms, they are said to be having a “psychotic episode”.
Who Gets Psychosis?
Psychosis can affect anyone, male or female, young or old. However, it often occurs for the very first time when someone is in their teenage years. Young people are particularly vulnerable to psychosis although doctors aren’t yet sure why this is the case.
Even before someone has their first psychotic episode, they may display some subtle signs that their behavior is changing. This is known as a “prodromal period”. It can last for several days or weeks, or even for months. Sometimes it will continue for several years before the first psychotic episode becomes evident.
How To Spot Psychosis In Someone Else
If you’re worried that your child or someone you know if suffering from psychosis, it’s important to know which signs to look for. Here are some symptoms you may notice:
- Their speech is unclear
- They have disorganized behavior
- They appear to be anxious or depression
- They have sleep problems
- Their school or work performance begins to slip
- They become more isolated from other people
- They are showing signs of paranoia
- Their personal hygiene may not be as good as it used to be
What Causes Psychosis?
Sometimes, the causes of psychosis can be identified as a particular mental health disorder. Both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder can cause psychosis. Schizophrenia is a condition which causes a number of different psychological symptoms which include delusions and hallucinations.
Bipolar disorder is a mental health disorder which affects moods, causing depressive and manic episodes. Sometimes, those who suffer from severe depression experience psychosis symptoms when they’re at their worst.
There are a few other causes which can trigger a psychotic episode. These include:
- Traumatic experiences
- Drug or alcohol misuse
- Side effects from medication
- Physical conditions like brain tumors
The length of a psychotic episode and how often they occur will depend on its underlying cause.
One cause of psychosis occurs after someone has a baby. This is known as puerperal psychosis or postnatal psychosis. This is a serious type of postnatal depression and affects around 1 in 1000 women after giving birth.
If a woman already suffers from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or another mental health disorder, they’re more likely to develop puerperal psychosis. Some of the signs of postnatal psychosis include a manic high mood – thinking or talking too quickly and too much, or a very low mood with no energy, insomnia and poor appetite.
There are also some medical conditions which can trigger a psychotic episode. These include:
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Brain tumors
In some people, drug or alcohol misuse may trigger psychotic episodes. If someone suddenly stops misusing addictive substances, they may also have psychotic episodes, especially if they’ve been using them excessively for extended periods. There are certain drugs which are known to potentially trigger psychosis including:
- MDMA (Ecstasy)
- Mephedrone (MCAT)
- LSD (acid)
- Magic Mushrooms (psilocybins)
There are also some changes inside the brain which may trigger psychosis symptoms.
Dopamine is believed to have a key role to play in triggering psychotic symptoms. Dopamine is a chemical called a neurotransmitter which moves information between brain cells. It affects the way we feel. If this brain function is disrupted, psychosis can occur.
Psychosis Or Psychopath?
It’s important to be aware that the terms “psychopath” and “psychosis” are two very different things. Somebody who has psychosis is suffering from an acute (short term) condition which can be treated and which they can recover from. Somebody who is a psychopath suffers from an anti-social personality disorder. This means they are unable to understand the way others feel, are manipulative and have no regard for the consequence of what they do.
Psychopaths are sometimes a threat to other people since they may become violent. On the other hand, someone with psychosis is more likely to hurt themselves than someone else.
How Is Psychosis Treated?
One problem with getting treatment for psychosis is the, due to the distress and impaired insight which are associated with the condition, many people don’t recognize they are having symptoms. They often don’t believe they have a problem and therefore don’t want to see a doctor. They often need support and help from loved ones to finally seek professional advice.
If you see your doctor with suspected psychosis you will probably receive treatment from a comprehensive team of medical professionals. You may be referred to a psychiatrist or psychologist who can help you with your mental health disorder and who can perform a full assessment of your symptoms to diagnose and identify underlying conditions which could be causing symptoms.
There isn’t a single test for psychosis, however, if you’re worried about your own mental health or about someone you know, it’s important to seek medical help as quickly as possible. A doctor can rule out any other causes of a problem and then offer a diagnosis.
There are several ways of treating psychosis. They include:
- Antipsychotic medications to reduce psychosis symptoms
- Psychological therapies like one to one CBT therapy, group, and family therapies
- Social support to help with needs like accommodation, employment or education
Following a psychotic episode, it’s important to keep taking medication for a minimum of one year to prevent the recurrence of symptoms. Around half of all sufferers will require medication in the long-term to guard against further episodes. In the most severe cases, admission to hospital to receive treatment may be necessary.
Getting early treatment is vital to prevent the symptoms from getting out of control and affecting school, work or relationships. The treatment offered will depend on the symptoms and cause of the problem. It may include a combination of therapy and medication. Some common forms of treatment are:
Counseling is effective in managing psychosis. CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) is one way to recognize the onset of a psychotic episode. This form of treatment will help you to determine whether what you hear and see is imagined or real.
Supportive psychotherapy is also a useful way of learning to live with and handle psychosis by reinforcing healthier ways to think. CET (cognitive enhancement therapy) is a psychotherapy approach which uses group work and computer exercises while family support and psychoeducation involve family members banding together to improve the way in which they work together to solve issues.
Family interventions are an effective way to treat those with psychosis and it is also helpful in preparing family members for what to expect when their loved one receives a diagnosis of psychosis. Family members are vital in providing the support and care needed during a psychotic episode, but it can be very stressful for parents and siblings when they don’t know what to do to cope with the situation.
In family therapy, several meetings take place over several months. These involve discussing the condition and the ways in which it can progress as well as the treatments which are available. During these sessions, different ways to support somebody suffering from psychosis are explored and decisions can be made about how practical problems can be resolved.
Sufferers may also benefit from attending self-help groups where they can meet other sufferers and get practical help and advice from those who have been dealing with the condition for some time. A doctor can give advice about where to find local groups in your area so you can attend a meeting and get to know others who are in the same situation as you.
These are generally given as the first line of treatment for a psychotic episode. These medicines work by blocking dopamine’s effects on the brain. Unfortunately, these medications aren’t effective or suitable for everybody as they produce side effects that can have a serious impact on certain users.
For those who suffer from epilepsy, for example, antipsychotics can cause problematic symptoms. People suffering from cardiovascular conditions will also require close monitoring if they are prescribed antipsychotic medications.
Antipsychotics help to reduce anxiety within just a few hours however it could take a number of days or even weeks for the psychotic symptoms like delusional thoughts or hallucinations to disappear. Sometimes antipsychotics are given in tablet form or via injection. Some antipsychotics are slow-release medications which only need to be administered every 2 – 6 weeks. Some of the side effects stemming from antipsychotics include:
- Weight gain
- Trembling and shaking
- Spasms and muscle twitches
- Blurry vision
- Dry mouth
- Loss of libido
Anyone taking antipsychotics who experiences troublesome side effects may be able to be prescribed a different medication which produces fewer or less intrusive side effects. However, it’s always vital to speak to a doctor before coming off medications that have been prescribed as it could cause a relapse.
The Complications Linked To Psychosis
There are a number of complications which may last for a long time as a result as psychosis. People who suffer from this mental health condition have a greater chance of developing problems with substance abuse. They often use alcohol or drugs as a way of managing their psychotic symptoms and escaping from the distress that they feel.
Unfortunately, substance misuse often worsens psychotic symptoms and causes other issues. People suffering from psychosis are also more likely to harm themselves or to have suicidal thoughts. This is why it is so important to get professional medical help as quickly as possible when the first psychotic episode occurs to ensure that the problem doesn’t get out of hand.
Seeing Psychosis And Getting Help
Although psychosis is a very frightening and distressing condition both for sufferers themselves and their families, it is a condition which can be treated. Sufferers can receive beneficial medication and counseling therapies which can set them on the right track to a full recovery. For family members, it is also possible to have therapy which teaches them how to support their newly diagnosed loved one so that they know the best ways to handle a psychotic episode and the right type of help to offer.
Since psychosis tends to arise for the first time during adolescence, it is very important for family members with a history of the condition to be aware of the signs and symptoms to look out for so that they can identify any issues with their own child. If you have spotted any of these indicators mentioned here in yourself or your family members, you should seek medical help before the problem gets out of hand.
With early intervention comes the best possible chance of making a full and speedy recovery. Contact The Meadowglade today for more information about what our team of trained therapists can do to help you or your loved ones dealing with psychosis!