What is psychosis?
A person who has a psychotic illness may have delusions, hallucinations, disordered thinking or abnormal behaviour. When someone becomes ill in this way, it is called a psychotic episode.
How common is psychosis?
Psychosis is most likely to occur in young adults and is fairly common. Around 1 in 50 people will experience a psychotic episode in their lifetime. Like any other illness it can be treated and most people make a full recovery.
What causes psychosis?

It is due to chemical imbalances in the brain, leading to a disruption of brain functioning. Some possible factors contributing to a psychotic episode are:

  • Physical illness
  • Environmental factors
  • Genetic predisposition
What are the symptoms?
Thinking / Perception
  • Thinking people are against you or talking about you
  • Receiving personal messages from the TV or radio
  • Senses seem sharper
  • Hearing voices
  • Seeing visions or things that others cannot see
  • Thinking that you have special powers
Feeling
  • Sad or irritable
  • Isolated
  • Confused or puzzled
  • Like you cannot trust people
  • Like you are being watched
Behaviour
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Talking or smiling to yourself
  • Neglecting your appearance
  • Avoiding contact with people
  • Behaving aggressively
Can psychosis be treated?

Psychosis can happen to anyone and like any other illness it can be treated. The earlier psychosis is recognised and treated, the better the chances of full recovery.

There are new and more effective medications, as well as improved treatment programmes that optimise functioning and contribute to a better outcome for individuals with psychosis.

Besides medication, counselling, psychotherapy and practical assistance such as getting help with school or work and arranging accommodation are other important aspects of treatment.

Benefits of early treatment

Early treatment will lead to a better and faster recovery. It may also prevent increasing severity of the illness and in some cases, suicide. Some other benefits include:

  • Less disability (physical, mental, psychological, social and occupational)
  • Lower risk of relapse
  • Fewer forensic complications
  • Reduced family disruption and distress
  • Reduced need for inpatient care
  • Lower health costs
Preventing relapse

It is normal to have ups and downs in life. When you suffer from psychosis, however, it is important to differentiate these ups and downs from a relapse of the illness. A relapse is the reappearance of symptoms that had been in remission. Relapses are more likely to occur if one stops taking medication. They can also coincide with the introduction of a new stressor in life, if an old stressor increases in intensity, or even for no apparent reason.

One can take steps to prevent relapse, such as taking one's medications regularly, managing stress by setting reasonable expectations, exercising regularly, practising relaxation techniques, using positive talk, learning problem-solving skills and adopting a flexible outlook.

It is also important to be aware of one's early signs of relapse. A "personalised relapse signature" lists symptoms unique to an individual, which can be used to signal an impending relapse. A copy of such a relapse signature card can be found under our "Resources".