Psychosis: Early Warning Signs and Treatment
Published: 16 February 2023
Published: 16 February 2023
In any 12-month period, 1 in every 200 adult Australians will experience a psychotic condition (Better Health Channel 2019).
Psychosis is when a person has lost the capacity to distinguish reality from their imagination (Better Health Channel 2019).
Psychosis sometimes occurs alongside other mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorders. However, it is worth noting that up to three-quarters of psychotic experiences do not progress to a diagnosable illness (Headspace 2021).
Psychosis is a treatable condition.
In the majority of cases, psychosis is experienced as an ‘episode’. In this period, a person will experience acute symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations.
Often, psychosis begins with general and gradual changes in a person’s thinking and behaviour. These behaviours include trouble with attention and concentration, irritability, depression, anxiety, suspiciousness, insomnia and social withdrawal, and often cause trouble at work or school (SANE 2022).
Psychosis typically manifests in teenage years or early adulthood (Better Health Channel 2019).
There is a false public perception that people with psychosis are more likely to be violent than others. This idea permeates popular media such as television and film, and has created a highly damaging and inaccurate idea of this condition (Peterson 2020).
The most effective way to reduce stigma is to educate yourself and others on this illness.
The following can be viewed as possible warning signs of psychosis. Keep in mind it can be difficult to distinguish this from typical teenage or early adult behaviour:
It is crucial that someone experiencing these signs seeks prompt medical advice. It can be difficult to convince someone who is experiencing psychosis to seek help due to the nature of the condition and its association with feelings of fear, anxiety and unease (NAMI 2016).
Psychosis can include a range of symptoms but often includes one of these two experiences:
Hallucinations include seeing, hearing or feeling things that are not there. Examples are:
Delusions are strong beliefs that are unlikely to be true and will seem irrational to others. Examples are:
Psychosis can also include symptoms such as:
Everyday thoughts can become difficult to comprehend and both thoughts and speech may seem slowed or mixed-up. A person may find it difficult to concentrate, follow a conversation or remember things (Headspace 2021).
A person may feel confused and alienated from their environment. They may appear to feel less emotion or show less feeling to those around them (Headspace 2021).
A person may have bursts of energy or find it difficult to get things done. They may laugh at inappropriate times, or become angry or upset without obvious reason. They might stop doing things that once brought them joy such as spending time with friends and family. They may seem excited, depressed or irritable without reason (Headspace 2021).
Several factors are thought to contribtue to psychosis, though the exact causes are still unclear:
(NAMI 2016; Better Health Channel 2019; Headspace 2021)
A general practitioner (GP) will assess the person’s symptoms to confirm psychosis. They may also refer a person to a psychiatrist for full diagnosis and treatment.
Psychosis is sometimes diagnosed as part of another illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorders. This diagnosis can change over time (SANE 2022). The presence of psychotic symptoms does not automatically mean that someone has a psychotic illness (Better Health Channel 2019).
Psychosis is a treatable condition. Several types of therapy have successfully helped people living with psychosis to manage their condition.
Treatment for psychosis typically involves:
(Headspace 2021; Better Health Channel 2019; ReachOut Australia 2017)
Treatment for psychosis may take many years. In that time, treatment can change according to the needs of the person (SANE 2022).
If you’re in crisis and need support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. Lifeline is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Question 1 of 3
True or false: Psychosis is a treatable condition.