Psychosis – what does it feel like, and how is it treated?

Written by: Top Doctors®
Published: | Updated: 22/11/2023
Edited by: Jay Staniland

Psychosis is a type of mental illness where a person loses touch with reality. They may experience quite distressing symptoms, broadly classified into delusions, which are false beliefs. They may experience hallucinations such as hearing voices when no one is around them, and may also have disturbances with their thought processes.

Woman with psychosis


What are the causes of psychosis?

If you are looking at the causes of psychotic disorders, these can be a number of ideological factors or causative factors.

  1. Acute, overwhelming stress on an individual.
  2. The use of illicit drugs or alcohol.
  3. Using prescription medications like steroids, for example, may cause psychosis.
  4. Severe enduring mental illnesses like schizophrenia or mood disorders.
  5. Sometimes it occurs because of something called organicity, meaning some physical problems in the brain, such as tumours, can cause psychosis.



What are the symptoms of psychosis?

Psychosis can range from a very transitory illness which may last for a few days to what are called enduring mental illnesses like schizophrenia. In schizophrenia, the person may develop these symptoms in quite a young age that may require treatment normally with medications or with talking therapies.

The different kinds of psychosis symptoms include:



The symptoms of psychosis can be broadly classified into symptoms of beliefs, hallucinatory experiences, and thought disorder symptoms. To elaborate, the false beliefs are also called delusions, and is when a person develops a belief which they hold very strongly. It can be of various types. For example, some may believe that people are out to kill them or get them, and are called paranoid or persecutory delusions. Some may develop grandiose delusions, where they believe they have supernatural powers to do things. It can also be delusions over friends where they believe people are talking about them or laughing at them and that might make them retaliate.



The most common kinds of hallucinations experienced by someone suffering with psychosis are that they sometimes hear voices talking to them coming from outside of themselves, telling them sometimes nasty things or giving demands to do things which are called command hallucinations.

These hallucinations are perception disorders, and they can appear in any other modality as well. They can be of touch, smell, taste, and sometimes, they may see things which aren’t there.


Thought disorder symptoms

The third classic symptom often experienced would be thought disorder symptoms. This is where the sufferer is confused with their thought processes. They are again classified into different varieties. For example, you may not understand what they are trying to say at all, or it may be that they have difficulty conveying their thoughts.



How is psychosis treated?

Psychosis is generally treated with medications called anti-psychotics. There are a number of anti-psychotics that can be used depending on what would benefit the person and what side effects the particular person is able to tolerate.

There is a choice of medications which can be used, these anti-psychotics are to be used for quite some time, perhaps two or three years for a person to actually benefit. Other than that, there are other various talking therapies called cognitive behaviour therapy and other therapies which could help.

Another aspect to look at is how to help or support the person to integrate back into the community so that they can lead normal and productive lives.

For schizophrenia, if we broadly classify it, around one-third of people may have one episode in their lifetime, and may never experience it again. Another one-third may actually never recover from their illness and the remaining third may have a number of episodes throughout their lives.

However, the good news is that there are medications, combined with talking therapies and other supports around the person that can actually help a person suffering with psychosis lead a normal life.



If you are experiencing, or have experienced, any of the symptoms of psychosis mentioned above, make an appointment with a specialist here.


By Topdoctors

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