Psychosis is a symptom of serious mental illness. A person experiencing psychosis loses touch with what is usually accepted as reality. They may feel paranoid, hallucinate, hear voices or have delusions, or have confused thoughts. Someone going through psychosis is said to be experiencing a psychotic episode. People who develop psychosis often have their first episode in their teens or early 20s. They may only have one episode, or can go on to have them throughout their lives.
Psychosis can be part of the symptoms of schizophrenia and also bipolar disorder. But people can also experience psychotic episodes due to severe stress or depression, or as a result of drug or alcohol use. It is believed there is a particular link with cannabis use. People who have a history of mental illness in their family are more likely to develop psychosis.
It is very important to intervene early if you think a child or young person you are caring for is developing psychosis, as getting help early can stop them from suffering serious effects.
People with psychosis may experience distressing symptoms such as:
- Hallucinations - hearing voices no-one else hears, seeing things that aren't there, or feeling, smelling or tasting unusual sensations with no obvious cause
- Believing others can influence their thoughts, or they can influence the thoughts of others or control events
- Believing they are being watched, followed or persecuted by others or that their life is in danger
- Feeling their thoughts have sped up or slowed down
- Thinking or talking in a confused way.
Additional early signs of psychosis can include:
- Withdrawal and loss of interest in usual activities
- Loss of energy or motivation
- Problems with memory and concentration
- Problems with work or study
- Lack of emotional response or inappropriate emotional display
- Changes or problems with sleep or appetite
- Unusual ideas or behaviour
- Feeling changed in some way.
During the teen years and early adulthood, many young people might show some of the above, but if they occur alongside any of the main symptoms of psychosis, or they go on for a long time it is a good idea to seek help.