What Is Psychosis?
Psychosis, or Psychotic Disorder, occurs when an individual has a break in reality and thinking is seriously affected. The psychotic symptoms affect the ability to think clearly, make good judgments, and communicate effectively.
Symptoms of Psychosis:
Psychosis is expressed by the following symptoms:
- Speech derailment
- Catatonic behavior
These symptoms must last for at least one day, although in brief psychosis symptoms will last less than twenty-four hours before the individual returns to a level of functioning comparable to that before the psychotic break.
Categories of Psychosis:
A person with psychosis may fall into one of the following categories:
- Psychosis with Marked Stressors - psychotic symptoms that develop because of, or shortly after, a specific event or events that are markedly stressful to most individuals. This form of psychosis is differentiated by having been caused as a result of the stress or trauma the individual experienced. It can be brought on by such things as the loss of a loved one, psychological trauma, grievous injury, or living through combat (sometimes known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD).
- Psychosis without Marked Stressors - psychotic symptoms that develop without an apparent onset incident or stressor. This form of psychosis is differentiated by having appeared without any apparent cause or triggering event, and cannot be traced back to specific experiences.
- Postpartum Psychosis - psychotic symptoms that occur within four weeks after childbirth. Women with a personal history or family history of psychosis, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia have an increased risk of developing postpartum psychosis. Additionally, women who have already experienced postpartum psychosis have a markedly increased chance of developing postpartum psychosis after future pregnancies.
Disorders Related to Psychosis:
- Psychosis may be shared by more than one individual, in a disorder called Folie a Deux. Folie a Deux is a disorder in which two people in a close relationship share the same psychotic delusions. Often the relationship contains a dominate aggressor who has the initial delusions. The submissive or passive individual in the relationship can then be drawn into the delusion, even if they are otherwise mentally sound.
- Psychosis can also be related to a generalized medical disorder, particularly those affecting the hippocampus specifically, or the brain generally. There aren't many specific criteria in determining whether psychosis is due to a medical issue; however, the diagnosis of a medical condition must occur prior to the onset of the psychotic symptoms. This psychosis can have delusions or hallucinations.
- Psychosis due to substance abuse is psychosis caused by substance use and/or abuse.
- Schizophrenia - a psychotic disorder in which a person is unable to ascertain the difference between the real and unreal, think logically, handle emotions or behave appropriately in social situations.
- Delusional Disorder - a disorder in which a person suffers false beliefs - not of the bizarre and implausible but of non-real, everyday situations. Delusional Disorder presents in the absence of any other mood or psychotic symptoms and is difficult to detect because the person has otherwise normal psychosocial relationships and reasoning. This perceived lack of mental troubles gives the person no real cause to seek out mental treatment or help.
What Causes Psychosis?
There is no one specific cause of psychosis; however, many factors are thought to play a role. Some aspects of psychosis are genetic, some are due to stress, drug abuse, and major life changes. Chemical imbalances in the brain are also thought to be a factor.
Diagnosis of Psychosis:
Psychosis must be diagnosed while symptoms are active and noticeable. A thorough medical and psychological history are performed, as well as a physical examination. There are not currently any tests to diagnose psychosis unless it is due to a medical condition. Often when psychosis is suspected, a psychologist or psychiatrist are involved in making the diagnosis and deciding upon a treatment plan.
Treatment of Psychosis:
There are several ways that psychosis is managed. Effective management is key to working with and treating psychosis and psychotic features.
Effective treatments include anti-psychotic medications that manage symptoms. Other medications may be utilized to treat mood disorders such as depression.
Psychotherapy is often effective to help develop coping skills and access supportive help in managing psychotic symptoms.
It is important to remember that there is no clear reason that a person develops psychosis, nor is there a sure-fire test to confirm diagnosis. Those who struggle with psychosis cannot control it and do not ask for it.
International Early Psychosis Association - An international network for the study and treatment of early psychosis, its aim is to raise awareness of early psychosis and provide a network for communication for those working in the field of early psychosis.
The American Academy of Children and Adolescent Psychiatry is a resource for children and adolescents who struggle with psychiatric issues and psychosis.
Here to Help - Dedicated to the prevention and management of both mental health and substance abuse problems in British Columbia.
Psychosis-Bipolar.com - helping patients and their families understand psychosis and bipolar disorders through education and support.
Psychosis Sucks - An Early Psychosis Intervention (EPI) program in the Vancouver area providing support and education for youth and their families.