Psychosis is a generally defined as a loss of contact with reality. People who have psychosis might experience things such as hallucinations, delusions, or extremely disorganized thinking patterns. They may also hear voices that no one else can hear, see things that no one else can see, and perceive threats that do not exist. The thoughts and feelings that a person with psychosis has may be inappropriate for or disconnected from his or her actual surroundings. Similarly, people with psychosis might behave in ways that are grossly inappropriate for or disconnected from the world around them. In any of these situations, however, the psychotic person is unaware of the disconnection between reality and their loss of contact with it.
Psychosis is a psychiatric condition that is most commonly associated with the presence of a mental health disorder. Some of the most common disorders that psychosis is said to be a part of include schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, substance abuse disorders, and Alzheimer’s disease. Psychosis affects different people in different ways. For some, the psychotic period may only last for a day, a few days, or a few weeks, while others may experience it chronically.
When a person is experiencing psychosis, it is a sign that he or she is suffering from a serious illness and should be evaluated immediately in order for the most appropriate level of care to be recommended and implemented.
What Are the Characteristics of Psychosis?
Psychosis, also known as psychotic episodes or psychotic breaks, typically involve features like delusions, hallucinations, movement disorders, and thought disorders. When people are experiencing a psychotic episode, they may exhibit one or more of the following symptoms:
Hallucinations are false sensory perceptions that cause an individual to experience auditory, visual, or olfactory sensations that do not actually exist. When people experience hallucinations, the sensations are very real for them and they are unable to distinguish between what is true reality and what is not.
Delusions are sincere beliefs that people have despite the fact that the beliefs have no basis in reality. Even when faced with evidence proving the falsity of their beliefs, people experiencing delusions are unable to recognize that their beliefs are incorrect. This abnormality in a person’s thought processes often result in extreme paranoia.
Disorganized behavior is behavior that is unusual, unpredictable, and inappropriate to one’s surrounding environment. People experiencing disorganized behavior may act in a variety of ways, including acting overly childlike and silly or acting angry and overly aggressive. Examples of these behaviors may also include things like inappropriate staring, cyclical motioning, or echoing things that they hear other people say.
Catatonic behavior occurs when a person experiences a complete lack of motor activity. This behavior is often characterized by extreme rigidity or muscle tightness. For some people, this lack of motor activity can alternate with hyperactivity. In other words, these people are either constantly moving or are unable to move at all.
Disorganized thinking occurs when people experience confused or disturbed thoughts, finding themselves unable to think straight. For people experiencing this type of psychosis, their thinking may become rapid as their minds become overwhelmed by different ideas and emotions, or their thinking may slow down so drastically that it is as if they are not experiencing any thoughts at all. They are unable to connect their thoughts into appropriate sequences and are therefore extremely difficult to communicate with.
Causes and Risk Factors for Psychosis
As is true for all psychiatric disorders, there is not one specific cause that has been identified as contributing to the onset of psychosis. Instead, it is believed to be a combination of various factors that depend on the disorder that the person has, as well as the symptoms that the person is experiencing. Some of the most commonly cited causes and risk factors for psychosis can include the following:
Genetic: It is believed by many professionals in the field that there is a genetic component in the development of psychosis in an individual. People who have a family history of mental illness in which psychotic symptoms are prevalent, such as schizophrenia, are considered to be more susceptible to experience psychotic symptoms of a mental illness themselves.
Physical: Studies have shown that psychosis can also be the result of organic medical conditions. For example, metabolic imbalances, renal disease, neurological conditions, endocrine disorders, and autoimmune disorders have been known to trigger episodes of psychosis.
Environmental: Periods of short-term psychosis, known as brief psychotic disorder, have been documented as resulting from a person experiencing a trauma, an excessive amount of stress, or major life-changing events. The symptoms of a brief psychotic disorder are said to come on suddenly and the person who experiences it is typically able to completely recover after the episode ends.
- Being exposed to toxic substances
- Having a family history of psychiatric disorders
- Having a mental health disorder
- Suffering from significantly impaired social functioning
- Experiencing severe trauma
- Abusing or becoming addicted to substances
- Having recently given birth
- Having certain organic medical conditions, such as AIDS or neurological conditions
Disorders Associated with Psychotic Symptoms
Schizophrenia is probably the most common mental illness associated with the presence of psychosis. People who suffer from schizophrenia experience significant misinterpretations of the world around them and have difficulty differentiating between what is real and what is not real.
Schizoaffective disorder causes those suffering from it to experience symptoms that resemble both schizophrenia as well as another mood disorder, such as bipolar disorder.
Bipolar disorder causes people to experience extreme mood disturbances that fluctuate between mania and depression. Both mood states can be accompanied by symptoms of psychosis, most commonly in the form of auditory or visual hallucinations.
Certain forms of dementia can cause people in the later stages of the illness to experience symptoms of psychosis, which can have significant effects on their behavior. Visual hallucinations and paranoid delusions are the most commonly experienced forms of psychosis in dementia patients.
Substance abuse or withdrawing from substances can lead to the onset of intense hallucinations and other symptoms of psychosis. These effects can come on rapidly but will then typically dissipate once the effects of the substance has worn off.
Physical illness: There are some physical illnesses that can trigger psychosis. Illnesses that interfere with the structure and normal functioning of the brain are the most likely type of illness to illicit the onset of a psychotic episode.
Postpartum psychosis: There have been instances where the act of childbirth has triggered psychosis, leaving the mother to experience symptoms within the first month after the delivery of the baby.
Signs and Symptoms of Psychosis
The signs and symptoms of psychosis can vary greatly from person to person depending on the cause that initiated the psychosis, the presence of a mental illness, and other individual factors. Some examples of symptoms that a person experiencing psychosis may exhibit can include:
- Hallucinations and delusions
- Extreme paranoia
- Inability to make decisions
- Self-harming behaviors
- Shakes or tremors
- Disorganized speech and behavior
- Social withdrawal
- Bizarre and/or inappropriate behaviors
- Being overly emotional or being incapable of showing any emotion
- Neglecting personal hygiene
- Responding to external stimuli
- Losing interest in things that one used to be interested in
Treating Psychosis in Chandler, AZ
When people are experiencing active psychosis, acute inpatient hospitalization or a residential treatment center are two of the best options for receiving thorough treatment because both provide around-the-clock care and supervision, while also having staff available 24/7 to administer and monitor appropriate medications. Antipsychotic medications are an instrumental component in successfully treating psychosis because they not only reduce the symptoms that a person is experiencing, but they can also help reduce the risk of future psychosis. Unfortunately, medications cannot cure psychosis, but they provide individuals suffering from its symptoms the ability to resume functioning on a daily basis.
At our hospital for psychosis, we understand the confusion that surrounds psychosis, as well as the terrifying effects that it can have on the person suffering from the symptoms as well as on those around him or her. When people come to us for treatment, we will conduct a thorough evaluation in order to ensure that each and every specific need is attended to. Our highly trained and qualified staff work to develop comprehensive treatment plans that guide our patients through their recovery process. We have an acute inpatient hospital that serves the needs of people ages 11 and over, as well as a residential treatment center that serves the needs of adolescents between the ages of 11 and 17. Our treatment center in Chandler is designed to meet the emotional and behavioral needs of every patient we treat while also helping them find a sense of hope, purpose, and optimism for their futures.