Help for Psychosis-Related Illnesses

Every year, roughly 100,000 Americans develop something called psychosis. This is not the name for a specific type of mental illness. Instead, it is a symptom of certain mental illnesses. You may also develop psychosis as a result of several other health problems. 

The key feature of psychosis is a reduced ability to tell what is real and what is not. This is sometimes referred to as having a psychotic episode. Such a situation is triggered by serious disruptions in your normal perceptions and thought processes. Often, there are warning signs to let you know that problems are developing. 

Psychotic illnesses are treatable. Treatment is most effective when the symptom is in its early stages. This means that seeking help as soon as possible is essential. Some sources of psychosis may get better over time. However, you may have a chronic illness that requires long-term management. 

What Is Psychosis?

Psychosis is a common symptom of some mental illnesses. Most of these illnesses belong to the schizophrenia family of conditions. In addition to schizophrenia itself, this family includes:

  • Schizoaffective disorder
  • Brief psychotic disorder
  • Schizophreniform disorder
  • Delusional disorder
  • Schizotypal personality disorder

The symptom may also affect you if you have bipolar disorder

Even if you never develop a mental illness, you can experience psychotic episodes as a result of such things as:

  • Drinking heavy amounts of alcohol
  • Going through alcohol withdrawal
  • Taking certain drugs
  • Having a stroke
  • Developing a brain tumor or brain infection

Women who give birth may develop a condition called postpartum psychosis. 

Types of Psychosis

There are two basic forms or stages of psychosis. The first of these forms is known as first-episode psychosis, or FEP. The second is known simply as psychosis.


Psychosis sometimes occurs in distinct events or episodes. During an episode, your thoughts and perceptions undergo serious change. But when the event passes, you return to a more or less normal state. In other cases, symptoms of the condition may appear in a more gradual way or not fade away. No matter which of these things happens to you, the experience can be extremely disorienting and frightening. This is especially true if you have never gone through it before. 

Early psychosis may indicate the onset of schizophrenia or another mental illness. It is also notable for another reason. If you understand what is happening to you, you can quickly seek help for your symptoms. This is vital since psychosis should always be treated at your first opportunity. 


Psychosis is more established at this stage. For this reason, its effects have had more time to damage your well-being.  It can also mean that your condition is now harder to treat. If the source of your problems is a mental illness, other symptoms of that illness will likely be affecting you. 

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Psychosis

There are usually warning signs before your first symptoms of psychosis begin to appear. These signs are behavioral and affect how you act and interact with others. Examples of changes you may notice in yourself or someone else include:

  • The new appearance of paranoid or suspicious thoughts
  • A sudden or unusual inability to concentrate or think clearly
  • Confusion about whether or not something you see or experience is real
  • An unexplained withdrawal from social contact
  • Incoherent or jumbled speech
  • Abnormal difficulty communicating with others
  • The expression of unusual thoughts or ideas
  • Loss of interest in personal hygiene

When it appears, psychosis has two primary symptoms: hallucinations and strong, false beliefs called delusions.


Auditory hallucinations are common. This occurs when you hear distorted sounds or sounds that are not there. These imaginary sounds often take the form of voices. Visual hallucinations may distort your perception of things that are actually there. They may also cause you to see things that are not there. In addition, you may have touch-based hallucinations or experience feelings with no obvious source. 


Certain types of delusions are common in people with psychosis. For example, you may:

  • Read deep or ominous meaning into something coincidental or trivial
  • Feel convinced that you are being controlled by powers outside of you
  • Believe that you possess power over others or have a unique, divine purpose or status

You may express your delusions in subtle ways. However, other people may have no difficulty identifying them as irrational or impossible. 

People with psychosis may also experience a number of additional symptoms. That includes such things as:

  • Disrupted sleep
  • Socially inappropriate behavior
  • Feelings of anxiety or depression
  • A loss of personal drive or direction
  • A general inability to function and thrive 

Causes and Risk Factors

The single biggest known risk factor for psychosis is your age. People in their teens and early 20s are especially vulnerable. Researchers believe this is due to certain changes that occur during late brain development. 

Psychosis has a range of potential underlying causes. Your symptoms may be the result of:

  • Having an inherited tendency toward psychosis
  • Developing a mental illness that has it as a symptom
  • Experiencing a highly traumatic event
  • Having a physical ailment that alters your brain function
  • Abusing alcohol or taking drugs such as hallucinogens, stimulants or cannabis
  • Experiencing a serious, prolonged lack of sleep
  • Going through childbirth
  • Taking a medication that has psychosis as a possible side-effect 

Psychosis Diagnosis

Psychosis Diagnosis

The presence of psychosis may be quite obvious. It may also be more difficult to detect. However, since psychosis is a symptom, what doctors focus on is identifying its underlying cause. For example, you may have a mental illness known to produce psychosis. You may also have any one of a number of other problems. 

For these reasons, there is no single method for diagnosing the condition. You can take a “do I have psychosis” quiz in person or online. But the important thing is to seek help from a professional who can uncover the cause of the problem. This is the only way to know for sure why your symptoms have appeared. Professionals you may need to consult include:

  • Doctors
  • Psychiatrists
  • Clinical social workers
  • Psychologists 

Addiction and Psychosis

People affected by psychosis have increased odds of using and abusing drugs and alcohol. If your condition is caused by a mental illness, you may develop something called dual diagnosis. Experts use this term to describe overlapping symptoms of substance problems and mental illness. 

It is known that certain addictive substances can cause you to experience bouts of psychosis. That may be especially true if you are addicted and locked into a pattern of heavy use. For example, people with chronic alcoholism may experience a condition called alcohol-related psychosis. 

Psychosis Treatment and Therapy Options

Many people affected by psychosis only receive help after having their symptoms for at least a year. This is unfortunate since early treatment is so important to your recovery. If your psychosis is identified early, you may benefit from coordinated specialty care, or CSC. This is a multi-part treatment that provides you with:

  • Appropriate medication
  • Therapy
  • Education and support for you and your family
  • Support from others with the same condition
  • Help getting a job or going to school
  • Comprehensive oversight of your overall care 

A variety of specialists play a role on a CSC team. These specialists help you create a unique action plan the suits your needs and goals. 

Even if you have experienced psychosis for a while, effective treatment is available. Medications used to ease your symptoms are called antipsychotics. These treatments work by making certain beneficial changes in your brain chemistry.  

Antipsychotics will not eliminate your symptoms. However, they do help keep the effects of those symptoms under control. This may mean reducing the intensity of psychosis. It may also mean making it easier for you to cope, regardless of the intensity of your symptoms. Today, most people second-generation antipsychotics, which produce fewer side-effects that older medications. 

One of the main therapy options for treating psychosis is cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. This therapy helps you recognize thoughts and behaviors that accompany psychosis. It also helps you make changes that support healthier thinking and behavior. 

Skill and experience are extremely important in helping people with psychosis. For this reason, qualified practitioners should have specialized training. This training makes it possible to manage your symptoms and increase your comfort level during treatment. 

Get More Information on Treating Psychosis

If your psychosis is caused by mental illness, rapid treatment is key. The sooner you get help, the better the chance you have of diminishing this symptom’s effects. Rapid treatment also improves the outlook for overall recovery from your condition. 

Prompt care for dual diagnosis is also essential. If you do not get help, your symptoms may grow worse over time. This is true whether those symptoms are caused by mental illness or substance abuse and addiction. Other problems associated with your condition may also grow worse, as well. 

Need help for psychotic-related mental illness, substance problems or dual diagnosis? Emerald Isle is your source for targeted, effective care. We specialize in the treatment of mental illness. We also specialize in the treatment of abuse and addiction. This combination of programs make us uniquely qualified to help you recover your health and well-being. For more information on our options for treatment, contact us today.