Psychosis occurs when an individual suffers from a break in or a loss of contact with reality. It is a psychiatric condition that is most commonly a symptom of a mental health disorder like schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and bipolar disorder, among others. It affects different people in many different ways but most will experience things such as delusions, hallucinations, and disorganized thinking patterns. People suffering from psychosis may see things that other people cannot see, hear things that other people cannot hear, and perceive threats that do not exist. However, to the person experiencing these things, it is very real and, in most cases, the person does not understand that no one else is experiencing what he or she is experiencing. People in a state of psychosis are completely disconnected from their true surroundings and may behave in ways that are grossly inappropriate to the situations that they are in.
Some people may experience periods of psychosis for a day, a few days, or a few weeks, while others may suffer from psychosis chronically. Whenever an individual is experiencing a psychotic break, it is a sign that he or she is suffering from a serious illness and should be evaluated as soon as possible in order to ensure that the most appropriate level of care is recommended and implemented in order to prevent further distress.
Characteristics of Psychosis
The features of psychosis can range from hallucinations and delusions to movement and thought disorders, as described in the following:
Hallucinations are characterized by false sensory perceptions that lead a person to experience visual, auditory, or olfactory sensations that do not exist. When someone is experiencing a hallucination, he or she is typically unable to distinguish between what is real and what is not real.
Delusions are characterized by sincere beliefs that a person has regardless of the fact that those beliefs have no basis in reality. When these people are presented with evidence that proves that their beliefs are, in fact, false, they remain unable to accept the facts as being the truth. This lack of understanding and abnormality in the person’s thought process often results in the development of extreme paranoia.
Catatonic behavior occurs when people experience a complete lack of motor activity, which is typically characterized by the tightening of muscles and extreme rigidity. In some cases, individuals will alternate between periods of lacking motor activity and periods of hyperactivity, meaning that these people go back and forth between moving constantly or not being able to move at all.
Disorganized behavior is characterized by behavior that is unpredictable, abnormal, and inappropriate to the environment in which a person is surrounded. When people are experiencing episodes of disorganized behavior they may act overly childlike and silly or angry and overly aggressive. Other examples of disorganized behavior can include cyclical motioning, echoing, and inappropriate staring.
Disorganized thinking is characterized by thoughts that are confused or disturbed, resulting in an individual experiencing an inability to think straight. People suffering from this particular feature of psychosis find that their thinking is either slowed so drastically that they feel as though they are not having any thoughts at all or their thinking is occurring at such a rapid pace that their minds are overwhelmed by different ideas and emotions. When going through a period of disorganized thinking, people are unable to connect their thoughts into appropriate sequences, making it extremely difficult for them to communicate.
Causes and Risk Factors for Psychosis
As is the case with most psychiatric disorders, there is not any one specific cause that has been identified as resulting in the onset of psychosis. Rather it is believed that there is a combination of factors that work together depending on the specific type of disorder that a person is suffering from. Some of the most commonly cited causes of and risk factors for psychosis can include:
Genetic: The development of psychosis in an individual is believed by many professionals in the field to have a strong genetic component as people who have a family history of mental illnesses in which symptoms of psychosis are prevalent are considered to be more susceptible to experiencing psychotic symptoms as well.
Physical: Scientific studies have demonstrated that psychosis can result from organic medical conditions, such as metabolic imbalances, neurological conditions, endocrine disorders, autoimmune disorders, and renal disease. All of these conditions have been known to trigger episodes of a psychotic break.
Environmental: Episodes of short-term psychosis, also known as brief psychotic disorder, have been noted as resulting from a person experiencing an excessive amount of stress, experiencing a trauma, or going through unexpected, major life-changing events. When people suffer from a brief psychotic disorder, they experience the onset of symptoms suddenly and are usually able to completely recover once the episode ends.
- Family history of mental illness
- Personal history of mental illness
- Having impaired social functioning
- Experiencing a traumatic event or a series of traumatic events
- Abusing substances
- Being exposed to toxic substances
- Having recently given birth
Disorders Associated with Psychosis
Schizophrenia tends to be the mental illness that is most commonly associated with the presence of psychosis. When an individual is suffering from schizophrenia, he or she experiences gross misinterpretations of the world around him or her and tends to have extreme difficulty distinguishing between what is real and what is not.
Schizoaffective disorder is a mental illness that causes people to experience symptoms that resemble both schizophrenia and another mood disorder. Psychosis can be one of the most debilitating symptoms that a person with schizoaffective disorder experiences.
Bipolar disorder causes individuals to experience dramatic shifts in mood, fluctuating between depression and mania. Both depressive and manic episodes can be accompanied by symptoms of psychosis, typically in the form of visual or auditory hallucinations.
Certain forms of dementia can cause individuals in the later stages of the illness to suffer from psychotic episodes, most predominantly in the forms of visual hallucinations and paranoid delusions.
Physical illnesses that interfere with the structure and normal functioning of the brain can trigger the onset of a psychotic episode.
Postpartum psychosis occurs when a woman experiences a psychotic break following the act of childbirth. Some women may experience such symptoms at random points within the first month after the delivery of the baby.
Signs and Symptoms of Psychosis
The signs and symptoms of psychosis will vary greatly among those suffering from it, depending on the cause that initiated the onset of the psychotic break, the presence of a mental illness, and other individual factors unique to the person, such as one’s temperament and personality. Examples of the various symptoms that a person experiencing psychosis may exhibit can include:
- Extreme paranoia
- Visual, auditory, and olfactory hallucinations
- Shakes / tremors
- Social withdrawal
- Bizarre and inappropriate behaviors
- Lack of hygiene
- Responding to non-existent external stimuli
- Disorganized speech and behavior
- Participating in self-harming behaviors
- Loss of interest in things one used to be interested in
Treatment for Psychosis
When someone is in the midst of experiencing active psychosis, acute inpatient hospitalization can be the most beneficial way of getting him or her the immediate help he or she needs. Through inpatient treatment, people are entering an environment where they will be provided with around-the-clock care and supervision. Additionally, the staff at inpatient treatment clinics are able to administer and monitor appropriate medications in order to help stabilize the person suffering from the psychotic break. Antipsychotic medications are an instrumental part of successfully helping someone who is in a state of psychosis because they not only help alleviate the immediate symptoms but can also work towards reducing the risk of future psychosis. These medications cannot cure psychosis, but they can aid in helping individuals resume functioning on a daily basis.
Getting Help from Us
Our main treatment facility in Dennison is within Trinity Twin City Critical Access Hospital. We serve residents of the entire Eastern Ohio region including cities like Canton and Cadiz. Call one of our Admissions counselors today for a free, confidential screening to see how Ten Lakes Center can help you down the path of recovery.