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What is Psychosis?

The word psychosis is used to describe conditions that affect the mind, where there has been some loss of contact with reality. When someone becomes ill in this way it is called a psychotic episode. Psychosis is most likely to occur in young adults and is quite common. It is a chronic disease that needs ongoing treatment with medication and rehabilitation.

What are the Symptoms?

  • loss of touch with reality
  • seeing, hearing, feeling, or otherwise perceiving things that are not there (hallucinations)
  • disorganized thought and/or speech
  • emotion is exhibited in an abnormal manner
  • extreme excitement (mania)
  • confused thinking
  • depression and sometimes suicidal thoughts
  • unfounded fear/suspicion
  • mistaken perceptions (illusions)
  • false beliefs (delusions)

People with psychosis behave differently from the way they usually do. They may be extremely active or lethargic, sitting around all day. They may laugh inappropriately or become angry or upset without apparent cause. Often, changes in behaviour are associated with the symptoms already described above. For example, a person believing they are in danger may call the police. People may stop eating because they are concerned that the food is poisoned, or have trouble sleeping because they are scared of something.

Causes of Psychosis

There are numerous potential causes of psychosis, including:

  • alcohol and certain drugs can induce psychosis
  • bipolar disorder (manic depression)
  • brain tumors
  • psychotic depression
  • schizophrenia
  • dementia (Alzheimer's and other degenerative brain disorders)
  • stroke

Psychosis prevents a person from functioning normally. During psychotic states, there is an inability to care for self, and the possibility of self-harm or harm to others if the condition is left untreated.

Call your health care provider or mental health professional if a member of your family exhibits behavior that shows the person has lost contact with reality. Alternatively, take the person to the nearest emergency room for an evaluation.


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