The following symptoms are associated with a diagnosis of psychosis:
- Changes in perception – Changes can happen where you hear, smell, feel, taste or see something that other people don’t experience. The most common one is hearing voices.
- Unusual distressing beliefs – This is when you feel that something is happening around you that you might struggle to explain. It may be a feeling that people are going to hurt or control you in some way, which makes you feel very unsafe.
- Confused thinking – You may notice that you can get very confused by your thoughts and feel that you cannot explain yourself very well.
- Other difficulties – You might find that you experience a loss of interest in things, low motivation and low mood. You may find it difficult to say how you feel, not talk very much and distance yourself from people and maybe stop taking care of yourself.
The main causes of psychosis are thought to be:
- Stress – Symptoms of psychosis like those above are often triggered by stress. Stress can come in a number of forms however – it can be an everyday problem, such as difficulty with work, studies or losing someone close to us. Long-term stress, such as family tensions, can also make it worse. Sleep deprivation is also a very common trigger.
- Traumatic life experiences – Recently research has found that some people who have symptoms of psychosis have also experienced traumatic events within their life. This is particularly linked to hearing voices.
- Mental health diagnosis – Psychosis is associated with conditions such as: schizophrenia; bipolar disorder; post traumatic stress disorder, personality disorders, severe stress or anxiety and severe depression (including postnatal depression).
- General medical conditions – There are some medical conditions, such as viruses and infections that can trigger episodes of psychosis.
- Substances such as alcohol or drugs – Drug misuse and drug withdrawal can both trigger psychosis. Drugs that are associated with this are: alcohol; cocaine; amphetamine (speed); methamphetamine (crystal meth); MDMA (ecstasy); cannabis; LSD (acid); psilocybins (magic mushrooms); ketamine and M-Cat.
A care co-ordinator would work with you to identify specific needs and make sure these are met. These needs might include housing, issues of safety and having adequate roles, routines and activities with which to occupy your time.
There are a range of medications which can help – a doctor should discuss these with you so the right one can be prescribed.
Psychological therapies help people make sense of their experiences, understand why they might have started and help their level of distress. NICE guidance recommends that everyone with a psychosis should be offered cognitive behavioural therapy, family interventions and art therapy.
Psychosis is more common than most people realise. It is thought that between 3 and 10% of the population hear voices that others do not. People tend to seek help when their experiences either become very distressing for them or they feel unable to cope with them. This is when people might ask for support from services or seek a diagnosis.
Research carried out in 2010 found that in England in any given year, there would be one new diagnosed case of psychosis for every 2,000 people. Another study estimated that around one in 100 people have at least one episode of psychosis at some point during their life, such as hearing or seeing something that others do not.
With the correct level of support, people find ways to deal with and recover from distressing voices and experiences. Sometimes these experiences can change during your recovery process, for example voices may become quieter or less demanding or critical. You may also feel more able to control them.Real life experiences of psychosis