Everything You Need to Know About Psychosis
Psychosis might not be a well-known mental disorder, but it is still so common that three out of 100 people experience it during their lifetime. This condition can make it hard to stay in touch with reality, so it often causes frightening or dangerous situations to develop. However, if you or a loved one is dealing with psychosis, there’s no reason to panic. Understanding what psychosis is and what causes it can help you find ways to treat the condition.
What Is Psychosis?
Psychosis is a type of mental health disorder where a person loses contact with reality. It is a very serious health condition because it causes people to sense or believe things that do not exist. Psychosis tends to present in two main ways: delusions and hallucinations. Some people may just have delusions or hallucinations while others may have both.
Delusions are a type of false belief. Common examples include a person believing that they are being stalked, thinking that they are a superhero, or being certain that they are terminally ill. Even when presented with evidence that the delusion is not real, a person will continue to stick to their false belief.
The other way that psychosis presents is with hallucinations. These are sensory perceptions that are not part of reality. People who have psychosis frequently see things that don’t exist or hear beings talking to them. It is also possible to hallucinate strange smells or sensations such as something crawling on you.
How to Identify Psychosis
Especially if you are dealing with psychosis yourself, it can be hard to recognize it. The best way to identify psychosis is by speaking to a mental health professional. They can carefully assess your situation and perform tests to see if you are experiencing psychosis.
However, it can sometimes be tricky to figure out if it is worthwhile to talk to a professional. You might want to talk to a mental health professional about potential psychosis if you:
• Struggle to concentrate
• Sleep more or less than you usually do
• Feel very anxious or suspicious
• Feel like your friends or family are treating you poorly for no reason
• Switch between topics erratically even when you’re trying to focus
• See, smell, feel, or hear things that others do not
• Have thoughts of suicide or self-harm
• Know things to be true that others don’t believe are real
• Feel unusually scared or confused but cannot identify why
Understanding the Causes of Psychosis
The brain is an incredibly complex organ that still isn’t fully understood. However, medical researchers have found that psychosis is almost always due to abnormalities in the brain. Imbalances of certain brain chemicals, such as dopamine, can cause psychosis to develop. Psychosis can also be caused by physical damage to the brain.
Therefore, there are all sorts of reasons for a person to have psychosis. In some cases, severe trauma can be enough to alter the brain and cause psychosis to develop. Things like tumors or a blow to the head may cause psychosis. People can temporarily experience psychosis while using certain substances like amphetamines and cocaine, and it can also be a side effect of prescribed medications. Psychosis is also related to many other medical conditions, including Parkinson’s disease and dementia.
Medical Conditions Linked to Psychosis
In most cases, psychosis is not something that happens spontaneously on its own. Psychosis can occur as a response to intense stress and trauma, or it may occur as a symptom of another pre-existing health condition. Here are some of the most common health problems that can lead to psychosis.
Schizophrenia is one of the most common causes of psychosis. The defining symptoms of this disorder include experiencing delusions and hallucinations. It also affects your ability to behave appropriately or think clearly. Schizophrenia tends to occur in episodes. A person can go for months or even years without having symptoms, and then, they can experience episodes with intense symptoms.
Substance Use Disorders
Substance abuse causes psychosis in multiple ways. Certain types of drugs, especially stimulants and psychedelics, can cause short-term psychosis while they are in your system. Long-term drug usage can cause psychosis even when the drug is out of your system. Many types of drug withdrawal can cause a person to develop psychosis for a few days. In cases where severe drug abuse has damaged the brain, psychosis may persist even after a person quits using drugs.
Bipolar disorder is a type of mood disorder in which a person goes through periods of mania and depression. Not all people with bipolar disorder have psychosis. However, many people do get a mild form of psychosis, especially during their manic periods. Often, the psychosis comes in the form of delusions of grandeur. While manic, a person with bipolar disorder may believe they are extraordinarily special or important.
Most people associate depression with feelings of sadness, anger, or fatigue. However, in some cases, depression can cause physical changes to the brain that trigger psychosis. This usually only happens in cases of severe depression. Psychosis during severe depression is particularly dangerous because it can trigger self-harm.
Personality disorders are a broad category of mental health conditions caused by unhealthy patterns of thinking and behaving. Common examples include borderline personality disorder and schizotypal personality disorder. These disorders can cause people to experience extremely intense, seemingly irrational emotions. Often, when undergoing a severe episode, symptoms can intensify into a psychotic bout.
Most people are aware of postpartum depression, but there is also another common mental health issue that occurs after giving birth. Many people who have given birth can develop psychosis sometime in the two weeks following birth. This happens because of the intense physical and hormonal changes caused by pregnancy and childbirth. It often causes paranoia, such as worries that someone is trying to steal your baby, or it may cause delusions about your baby being an alien or other unusual creature.
Is Psychosis Dangerous?
If you have just found out that you or a loved one has psychosis, you might struggle with how to react. First of all, it is important to recognize that psychosis can be a very unsafe mental health condition. Much like depression and anxiety, psychosis can cause some people to harm themselves. Furthermore, there is a small chance that delusions or hallucinations can lead a person to harm others. Even if a person does not experience physical harm, the stress and anxiety of dealing with psychosis can cause intense mental trauma. Therefore, it is essential to take psychosis seriously instead of just ignoring it because it’s all in your head.
That being said, people with psychosis often struggle with harmful stereotypes. The media often depicts them as being violent and physically threatening. The reality is that most people with psychosis are not physically violent. In fact, statistics show that people with psychosis are more likely to be victims of violence, not perpetrators. Though psychosis is a serious condition that should be treated as soon as possible, the majority of people with psychosis are not a danger to others.
Is Psychosis Permanent?
When a person gets a psychosis diagnosis, one of the first things they may wonder is whether they will feel like this forever. The duration of psychosis really just depends on your health and the underlying cause. In many cases, treating the underlying cause can address the psychosis. Doing things to help rebalance brain chemistry, such as sleeping or stopping drug use, may be enough to end psychosis symptoms.
Sometimes, psychosis is not immediately curable. If you are dealing with a lot of health problems or have permanent brain damage, psychosis might not go away as soon as you see a doctor. However, there is still a lot of hope. There are many treatments that can help to lessen the impact and the stress of psychosis. Thousands of people manage to live happy lives despite a psychosis diagnosis.
Treatment Options for Psychosis
Your doctor can help you create a treatment plan that makes it easier to live your life. Depending on the cause of the psychosis, you might need treatments to address the underlying health condition. There are also several options that can directly reduce psychosis symptoms and the associated stress of psychosis.
Medication is almost always the first line of treatment for psychosis. In cases of extreme, intense psychosis, the emergency department may sedate a person to give them some time to rest and recover. There are also medications that can help reduce psychotic symptoms while keeping a person conscious and functioning. Called antipsychotics, these medications come in many forms. You can take them as a daily pill, or you can get them as a monthly injection. Some common options include risperidone, quetiapine, olanzapine, haloperidol, and chlorpromazine.
Therapy does not usually halt psychosis symptoms right away. However, it can provide the framework a person needs to address the challenges of psychosis. The most common therapy type is cognitive-behavioral therapy. This involves you talking with a professional who helps you to identify any distorted thoughts, address them, and find more positive ways of reacting. Therapy comes in many forms, including individual and group therapy. It can help you heal from trauma, identify psychosis triggers, and discover techniques for coping with bouts of psychosis. Therapy is also very useful for managing the depression and anxiety that can occur with the condition.
Those with psychosis do better when they have support from friends and family. Ideally, your treatment plan will include education for those around you. This education can include things like teaching people how to recognize psychosis symptoms, engage with psychotic behavior in a healthy way, and assist people during bouts of psychosis. There are also many medical and government programs that can provide you with caregivers, employment opportunities, and other things you need to live with psychosis.
For many people, their psychosis gets worse when they are in poor health. Therefore, your doctor may advise you to make some changes to your lifestyle. Often, this starts with discontinuing drug use, including things like caffeine. Getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and eating nutritious meals may help to reduce symptoms as well. Finally, stress has a huge impact on psychosis, so you may need to adjust your schedule and find ways to avoid stressful situations.
Defining Wellness Is Here to Help
If you or a loved one is dealing with psychosis, prompt care can help. Treating psychosis as soon as possible can keep a person’s condition from worsening. Often, the best approach to psychosis is one that combines medical care with psychological help. At Defining Wellness, we work hard to ensure all of our clients get the best possible care.
Our team starts by creating a personalized treatment plan. In addition to providing medications and therapy for mental health, we also specialize in dual diagnosis treatment. If you are experiencing psychosis alongside a substance use disorder, we have the experience needed to handle these interacting conditions. Learn more about our treatments by contacting us now.