What is Psychosis? | Definition, Causes, and Treatment plans

According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, three in 100 people experience psychosis in their lifetime. Luckily, not many people have to worry about psychosis, and most people either don’t know what it means or they have never even heard of the word. Unfortunately, I was one of the three people in the statistics, and experiencing psychosis was definitely worse than words could ever describe. Prior to having psychosis, I didn’t even know what it meant until I was diagnosed during my hospitalization. I think most of us think of psychosis as somebody behaving crazy and aggressive, but there is actually much more to that. Although the experience of psychosis was a bit traumatic for me, I am happy to share that I got through with the treatment, and I am 100% symptom-free today.


What is Psychosis?


Contrary to popular belief, psychosis is not a mental disorder. Rather, it is a general term used to describe a symptom, which often accompanies hallucinations, delusions, disordered thinking, difficulty thinking, catatonia, paranoia, and self-harming behaviors. During a psychosis episode, one’s perceptions and thought patterns become so disturbed that there is a break from reality.

From my own personal experience, this is absolutely true, and it is scary. During my psychosis episode, I didn’t know how to tell what was real and what wasn’t, and I had obsessive paranoia, very hard time forming up a thought, delusions, auditory hallucinations, and even suicidal ideations. Mine was brought on acutely, and I still don’t know exactly what caused it but I believe I’m genetically predisposed to developing psychosis based on the family history and my own personal mental health history.  What is Psychosis?

Causes


Psychosis can be caused by many things like substance abuse, sleep deprivation, extreme stress, hormones, and trauma, and it can also occur as a secondary symptom from a pre-existing physical and mental illness such as brain tumor and Schizophrenia. Therefore, it is important to carefully rule out any underlying issues as it plays a huge role in determining proper treatment plans for the patient.

There are also some researches which indicate that genetics play a significant role, and some people are more prone to developing psychosis than others for this reason. Personally, I also believe this to be true because I do have a family history of mental illness on my mother’s side, and I feel that I am more prone to developing psychosis because I already inherited some of her conditions such as depression.


Treatment options


Prognosis for psychosis is better if treated early. Understanding early signs of psychosis can help identify any warning signs, and they include symptoms such as anxiety, social withdrawal, disorganized thinking, lack of personal hygiene, and performing poorly at work and school. Although there is no single test to determine if one is having psychosis, it is often recommended to rule out physical causes such as head injury, trauma, epilepsy, and postpartum hormonal imbalances by head scans, EEG, and other diagnostic tools.

Treatment options for psychosis often consist of the use of anti-psychotics, which are effective at reducing the symptoms of psychosis. There are also other treatment options available such as psychotherapy and CBT.

Finally, if there are any signs of self-harming behaviors or homicidal ideations, hospitalizations will be required for safety and to stabilize the patient.

In my case, I was hospitalized and treated with anti-psychotic called Seroquel and mood stabilizer Depakote, and luckily, I was able to get released after the 5150 hold. Every person reacts to medications differently. I don’t really tolerate many medications well, but Seroquel was helpful in reducing symptoms of hallucinations and restlessness without terrible side effects. Usually, after the hospitalization, the follow-up office visit is required/recommended with a psychiatrist to adjust the medication dosage and also to monitor any worsening symptoms.  I highly recommend getting acquainted with a psychiatrist as well as a psychologist to help stay stabilized after the hospitalization to avoid any relapse.

What is Psychosis?

 


Prevention


Understanding the causes for psychosis can help lower the risks in some patients. It is best to avoid any recreational drugs that can induce psychosis and be mindful not to run too little on sleep. If you are currently pregnant and/or have a mental illness that can accompany psychosis, it is wise to closely monitor any sudden changes in your mood and thinking and behaviors.

Looking back at my experience with psychosis, I’m still not quite sure exactly what caused it. However, I do know that I worked a very high-stress job and was going through some very stressful times of my life. It could have been anything that caused it, but I do know that I’m at a higher risk than most people based on my mental health history. With this in mind, I do my best to minimize my daily stress and also try not to overwork myself whether it be work or personal life, which overall serves as good prevention. Having a great support system has also been a tremendous help because my friends are there to remind me when I’m slipping up and over-taking on tasks that I don’t necessarily need.

What is Psychosis?


Conclusion


Nobody likes to feel crazy and lose touch with reality. For some people, psychosis is something they never have to experience in their lifetime while others have recurring psychosis due to their mental illness. I certainly hope that I won’t have to go through it again, but next time around I will be more well-equipped with the knowledge of what to look out for in its early stage so I can get the treatment at its first onset. In this article, I really wanted to emphasize the various causes of psychosis because that is very crucial to ensure an effective treatment against psychosis. Psychosis is not always an indication for mental illness, and we must look carefully so that the right treatment will be administered. Finally, I would like to encourage you to share your story below if you have experienced psychosis in the past and let us know what helped and what didn’t.

**This is a poem I wrote while I was hospitalized for psychosis. Still emotional reading it but it captures how frightening it was to not know what was real and what wasn’t at the time

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Comments

  1. What a frightening experience this must have been for you. My older sisters sometimes mention the “nervous breakdowns” that my mother had as they were growing up. She was hospitalized at least three different times and my sisters had to go live with another relative. I’m not sure if this would be considered psychosis in today’s terms but it is possible.

    Another sister just had a similar experience which happened at the end of a series of medical treatments she had been taking for a different health issue. After many months of being sick and then reacting to medication she was given, they started a treatment program which seemed to be working very well for her. She went from nearly dying to 85% back to normal. Then she had another treatment, which would have been the last one and started declining very quickly.

    I’m sorry to be so vague but she lives far away and I get all of my news filtered through several relatives and I don’t trust my memory to use medical terms. Anyway, the doctors were able to pull her out of it and she is doing well now.

    I thought it was interesting that she and my mom had similar experiences and that both of them had a tendency to lose their appetites and stop eating which I think may have compounded the problem.

    Younger family members have had mental issues, too, so I guess heredity plays a part. It’s pretty scary!

    1. Oh my gosh, Theresa…. That is a lot for your family members to go through. It does sound like it is something hereditary just like how it was for me. I do believe that some people are predisposed to having psychotic symptoms/disorders/episodes compared to others. It also sounds like it was a drug-induced psychosis for your sister based on what you are telling me. Yes, it is quite scary what medications can do…! Thank you so much for sharing with us, Theresa 🙂

  2. Dalibor

    Nobody from my family had any similar problems. But the human mind is fascinating and sometimes can be frightening how well our mind can deceive us.
    I remember watching a few movies on that subject. I know it’s not the same, or probably even close. But the more I thought about it, the more I could understand how a person can’t fight against it alone.

    Thank you for sharing information and explaining psychosis. A human brain is wonderful, yet complicating.

    1. Absolutely. The mental health industry is still in the process of uncovering a lot of stuff like the mechanisms of both mental disorders and medications. But just like our body, our mind also seems to have a defense mechanism in place that does extraordinary things in order to protect ourselves. I will be covering those topics in the future as well so stay tuned in 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, Dalibor 🙂

  3. Derek Marshall

    Great article and thanks for sharing it with us all,

    I am a strong believer in prevention is better than the cure, as obscure as it sounds is there a way of preventing psychosis?

    I do firmly believe that there is much more to this, and other mental illnesses than current research shows.

    1. I agree with you 100%. Prevention and maintenance are much more effective and powerful. Those of us with family or personal history with mental illness all need to be cautious with our environment and stress levels, and it is always wise to educate ourselves regarding issues like this. With psychosis, there are some mild signs we can look out for that can be very helpful in identifying the issue at its early stage. I also do believe that there is so much more to uncover in the next few years, and I hope that we will have new and better diagnostic tests as well as treatment options for mental illnesses. Thanks for stopping by, Derek!

  4. Melanie Fleury

    As a registered nurse, I thank you for bringing this topic to light. Many times, any mental health issues are brushed under the rug due to stigma. Psychosis is often thought of as a “drug issue” and those that suffer are often blamed. This keeps people from seeking help and treatment early on. As you stated, psychosis can come from lack of sleep, extreme stress ,hormonal issues, all these are things that any one of us can experience at any point. By removing the surrounding stereotypes around mental illness, we can help people to receive the treatment they so desperately need.

    1. Thanks for sharing your insight here, Melanie. I really appreciate it, and it is true that oftentimes psychosis is thought of as a drug-related issue. When I was admitted to the ER, that was actually the first thing they asked and tested for. I do hope to bring more awareness to mental health and hopefully, we get to remove the social stigma one layer at a time..

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