Acute phase

The word psychosis is used to describe a condition that affects the mind, where there has been some loss of contact with reality. This can lead to changes in mood, behaviour and the beliefs you may hold. If you are experiencing psychosis, your perceptions, thoughts, feelings and behaviour may be dramatically different to your usual experience, or of the people around you, sometimes for no apparent reason.

If you become unwell in this way it is called a psychotic episode. This can be frightening and upsetting for both you and those close to you.

Nobody’s experience of psychosis is the same and psychotic features will vary from person to person and will often change over time.

Some common symptoms of psychosis are:

  • Hallucinations you may hear, see, smell, feel or taste things that may not actually be there
  • You may find that you become more sensitive to light and colours, or find that sounds are louder/quieter than normal
  • You may hear voices or see shapes or objects that no one else can. You may believe their eyes or ears are playing tricks on them
  • Confused thinking – your everyday thoughts may not join up correctly or may be confused or jumbled. Concentration and memory may be affected
  • You may begin to read more into normal occurrences, or attach special meaning to seemingly innocuous or random things
  • You may have strange beliefs or weird ideas that you didn’t have before. Sometimes you may become preoccupied or convinced of these beliefs, no matter how good or logical the counter-argument is. These are often called false or delusional beliefs
  • Examples of delusions are: the belief that people are watching you or are going to harm you; feeling that people can read your mind; and believing you have special powers.
  • Abnormal speech – sometimes when you have a psychotic experience you can find it difficult to communicate or others find you hard to understand. Your speech may not flow normally and may seem disjointed. Sometimes you will even use made up words
  • Changes in behaviour – if you have psychosis, you may begin to act or behave differently to the way you normally would do. You may become extremely active or lethargic. You may become withdrawn or less inhibited
  • Often these changes are related to the symptoms mentioned above. For example, if you are hearing voices you may answer back or seem distracted or if you believe you are being poisoned you may avoid eating and drinking
  • All of these changes make it difficult for you to distinguish between what is real and is not real. This can be very distressing for all concerned.

The decision to seek help is not an easy one. However, the sooner help and support is provided, from both family and professionals, the better the outcome will hopefully be for the individual concerned. With this help and support most people who experience psychosis will recover and go on to have full, healthy lives, and may never have another episode.