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What is Psychosis?

Getting Help

Have you or someone you know experienced recent troublesome changes in behavior, thoughts or emotions described below? Do you or someone you know have a recent diagnosis or newly emerging symptoms of psychosis? The UC San Diego CARE Program may be the right fit for you.  Contact us at 619-543-7745.

What is Psychosis?

The word psychosis is used to describe conditions, which affect the mind and involve some loss of contact with reality. When someone has these experiences it is called a “psychotic episode.”  Psychosis is most likely to occur in young adults and is quite common.  Around 3 out of every 100 people experience a psychotic episode, making psychosis more common than diabetes.  Psychosis can happen to anyone.  Like other illnesses it can be treated.

Psychosis is NOT

  • NOT caused by childhood experiences
  • NOT caused by poverty
  • NOT caused by bad parenting
  • NOT a split personality
  • NOT the result of any action or personal failure by the individual
  • NOT always schizophrenia  

Early Risk Signs

A state of high clinical risk does not indicate an unavoidable progression of symptoms or development of a psychotic disorder.

  • Unusual thoughts
  • Confusion about what is real and what is imaginary
  • Perceptual disturbances
  • Having a strong belief that is firmly held in spite of contrary evidence or believing that something or someone is referring to you.
  • Social withdrawal
  • Feeling suspicious
  • Feeling anxious/irritable
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Feeling depressed

Symptoms of Psychosis

  • Hallucinations: Hearing, seeing, feeling or smelling something that isn’t there.
  • Delusions (false beliefs) or ideas of reference: Having a strong belief that is firmly held in spite of contrary evidence or believing that something or someone is referring to you.
  • Confused thinking and Other Cognitive Difficulties: Difficulty with thinking clearing or expressing oneself clearly. Problems with concentration, memory and reasoning.
  • Decline in Social Functioning: Less time socializing, problems at school or work.
  • Disorganized Behavior: Unpredictable movements or remaining motionless.
  • Negative Symptoms: Lack of energy, motivation, pleasure or emotional expressiveness.
  • Depression: Feeling extremely sad or blue that can affect appetite, sleep or energy level.
  • Suicidal Thoughts: Thoughts that you want to harm yourself.
  • Anxiety: Being nervous; feeling scared, worried or afraid.

What Causes Psychosis

A number of theories have been proposed as to what causes psychosis, but there is still much research to be done. There is some indication that psychosis is caused by a combination of biological factors, which create a vulnerability to experiencing psychotic symptoms during adolescence or early adult life.

Psychosis is most likely to first occur between the ages of 12 and 30 years.  Approximately 100,000 adolescents and young adults in the United States experience a first psychotic episode each year (McGrath, Saha, Chant, et al., 2008).

How is Psychosis Treated?

Psychosis is treatable and while some people recover completely from their first episode, others may experience psychotic symptoms over time but can learn to cope with them. One of the major research findings has been that there is a clear link between duration of untreated psychosis and prognosis.

  • Medical: Medication and monitoring
  • Psychosocial: individual/ group counselling and education
  • Family support and education
  • Community collaboration

Video: Inside a Schizophrenic Brain

Now and then we all think we hear someone calling our name or noticed a strange coincidence. But for people with schizophrenia, these can take on a much more nefarious quality. Dr. Vikaas Sohal walks us through what it feels like to be inside a schizophrenic brain. (4:36)

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