The word “psychosis” is used to describe a medical condition that affects the mind, in which there has been some loss of contact with reality. The experience of psychosis varies greatly from person to person, so that individuals experiencing psychosis may have very different symptoms; however, the common thread is that it affects an individual’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviours.
Psychosis is a common medical condition that affects about 3% of the population. Psychosis tends to emerge during adolescence and young adulthood, affecting males and females equally. A first episode of psychosis is often frightening, confusing, and distressing for the individual, and upsetting for their family and friends; however, the good news is that it can be treated effectively.
What causes psychosis?
At this time, there are many theories about what causes psychosis, but no definite answers. Psychosis occurs in a variety of mental and physical disorders; therefore, it likely has multiple causes. Biology, stress, and drug use are three of the most common theories.
Common symptoms of psychosis
- Disorganized or confused thinking, speaking and behavior. Thoughts become confused and seem to either speed up or slow down. The individual experiencing psychosis may have difficulties concentrating, following instructions or conversations, and remembering things.
- Changes in mood – an empty feeling marked by a lack of emotions, difficulty expressing feelings. Individuals with psychosis may feel strange and cut-off from the rest of the world.
- Delusions – strongly held beliefs which are unusual and unjustified.
- Hallucinations – seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling or tasting things that do not actually exist.
Phases of psychosis
- Prodromal phase: often not clear until after positive symptoms emerge
- Acute phase: characterized by the experience of intense symptoms (e.g. hallucinations, delusions, thought disorder)
- Recovery phase: gradual return to normal functioning