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PSYCHOSIS

Psychosis is a mental health problem that causes people to perceive or interpret things differently from those around them. This might involve hallucinations or delusions. Psychosis can be a symptom of several mental health conditions. People may experience psychosis if they have: 

  • Bipolar disorder - when someone experiences episodes of mania (elated mood), they may also experience symptoms of psychosis.

  • Schizophrenia - a mental health condition which causes hallucinations and delusions. 

  • Substance misuse - alcohol or drug misuse can trigger psychotic episodes, particular if someone stops using substances after a long period of time (withdrawal symptoms)

  • Postpartum psychosis - a rare but serious mental illness which can happen to any woman following childbirth, 1:1000 women are affected by postpartum psychosis.

Signs and symptoms of Psychosis

  • Hallucinations where a person hears, sees and, in some cases, feels, smells or tastes things that aren't there; a common hallucination is hearing voices. 

  • Delusions where a person has strong beliefs that aren't shared by others; a common delusion is someone believing there is a conspiracy to harm them. 

  • Confused thoughts such as confusing speech or talking very fast. Switching from one subject to another mid-sentence or sudden loss in their train of thought.

Treatments available for Psychosis

  • If the person is taken to A&E, they will be seen by a psychiatric doctor to assess their condition.

  • Treatment for psychosis will vary depending on the underlying cause, but will usually involve a combination of antipsychotic medicines, psychological therapies and social support.

  • People who experience an episode of psychosis for the first time will be referred to an 'early intervention team' who will make an assessment of their needs and work out the most appropriate treatment plan.

  • Antipsychotics medication is normally prescribed in the first instance, such as 'olanzapine'. Antipsychotics work by blocking the effect of dopamine, a chemic that transits messages to the brain.  

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy better known as CBT can help people understand and comprehend their experiences (or episodes) better. The aim of CBT for psychosis is to help deal with their problems in a more positive way by breaking them down into smaller parts. CBT usually consists or several weekly sessions depending on the severity of the person's symptoms. 

  • Family intervention therapy involves a series of meetings that take place over a period of three months or more, to explore ways to help the person with psychosis and how to manage future episodes. 

Aiding another with Psychosis

  • If you believe someone is experiencing symptoms of psychosis, approach them with a calm and caring attitude.

  • Choose an appropriate time and place where you will both feel comfortable.

  • The person may be very frightened about what they are experiencing and worry what other people may think about them.  

  • Share your concerns with them, listen ti what they say without judgement and show that you are there to support them.

  • The person may do things out of character which you may find unusual - do not dismiss what they say or try and correct the person. 

  • You should ask them if they have felt this way before. If they are already receiving treatment, ask them what helps them in this situation (e.g contacting a family member) 

  • If they are experiencing a severe psychotic episode, the person should go to hospital. Call the emergency services for assistance. 

  • Being kidnapped or held at hostage

  • Being raped, mugged or robbed

  • Witnessing someone being seriously hurt or killed

  • Losing a relative or a close friend

  • Being diagnosed with a life-threatening condition

  • Being involved in a serious road traffic accident

  • Being involved in a natural disaster