You might have heard about psychosis, a common term that we come across often while talking about mental health. Wondering what it is?
Psychosis is a condition that affects the way the brain processes information. It involves the loss of contact with reality and the main symptoms are hallucinations and delusions. During a psychotic episode, a person’s thoughts, perceptions are disturbed and they cannot distinguish between what is real or not.
A person in a psychotic episode may experience depression, anxiety, sleep problems, social withdrawal, lack of motivation, and difficulty functioning overall. The most common symptoms of psychosis are delusion and hallucinations which we will discuss in the latter part of the article. Adding to that incoherent speech and inappropriate behaviour in a psychotic episode is common as well.
Wondering whether you or your loved one has a chance of developing Psychosis? Here are a few early signs that can make you aware:
- One is sure that they are being spied on or followed.
- The regular environment makes you feel unsafe.
- You are sure that there is some conspiracy going on behind your back. You feel extremely mistrustful of people whom you were pretty comfortable with.
- You can hear sounds, maybe someone whispering, giving you directions constantly or at times.
- You see things but you can be sure whether they are real or not.
- You question your existence.
- Your thoughts are disjointed and forming a clear thought is hard for you.
- You had felt like your thoughts were being controlled by someone else and they were not owned by you.
The most common symptoms as discussed are hallucination and delusion. Hallucination is the sensory perception in absence of a corresponding external stimulus and is described according to the sensory domain in which it occurs. The delusions are fixed, false beliefs which are false interpretations or inferences of reality.
The delusions are of two types
1. Bizarre 2. Ordinary.
Bizarre delusions explain phenomena that are physically impossible. Ordinary delusions are derived from everyday experiences mostly. The combination of delusions and hallucinations can give rise to a distressful state of mind. Some of the early warning signs of psychosis are the same as those of other psychological disorders. Generally, people experiencing psychosis lack insight which reasons for their inability to seek help. The conditions which trigger psychotic episodes are schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, severe depression or anxiety.
Generally, these underlying causes influence the type of psychotic episode one experiences. The negative symptoms of schizophrenia or symptoms of depression can be misleading to diagnose any psychotic episode. In that case, you can opt for online counselling or online depression therapy for a basic idea of the present state. There are other mental conditions which are also remarkable in triggering psychotic episodes: Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson;s disease, brain lesions etc.
Psychosis occurs over a period of time. Generally, it starts with losing contact with reality. A condition that affects the mind and alters the perception of reality. In any psychotic episode, it is very difficult to understand what is real and what is not. Psychosis is a symptom of a mental health condition like bipolar disorder, depression, or schizophrenia. Online therapy might help.
It can be difficult to understand the early signs of psychosis. Hence, being aware in these times can be beneficial at least. Psychosis can happen in children as well as adults. It can develop over the teenage years.
There are mainly 3 stages of early psychosis:
Stage 1: Ultra-high risk
Research suggests that an early pre-psychotic phase exists where much of the collateral damage takes place. This stage is termed “prodrome” the precursor of the psychotic stage. In this stage, one can only apply the term “prodrome” with certainty if the definitive psychotic stage does indeed develop, terms such as the “ultra-high risk” or “clinical high risk” stage have been developed to indicate that psychosis is not inevitable and that false-positive cases also occur.
Stage 2: Early Detection and treatment of first-episode psychosis
It involves the focus on the period after the onset of fully-fledged psychosis. It can remain undetected or untreated sometimes. Post detection of the psychosis, the intervention goals are engagement and initiation of pharmacological and psychosocial treatments like online therapy. Psychosocial treatments in early psychosis have been extensively studied, and there are positive findings pointing to the value of cognitive therapies in accelerating and maximizing symptomatic and functional recovery.
Stage 3: The critical period of the first 5 years after diagnosis
This stage comprises the period after the first episode which can be viewed as the critical period. Care should be taken in this stage to provide effective goals and psychosocial interventions for minimizing the development of disability and maximising functioning. In this period there are maximum chances of relapse. Evidence supports that streamed care including specializing in early psychosis programmes tends to give better outcomes than generic care.
In the critical period, there are chances of fluctuations of mood, and irritations which can be dealt with by online counselling or online therapy, we may consider counselling for depression as well.
Causes of Psychosis
There can be several reasons for the cause of psychosis. However, the causes can be explained under three broad categories. They are:
Genetic research in psychotic disorders is increasing rapidly. According to general evidence from family and twin studies, there is a range of common genetic risk factors. There is evidence for partial overlap of genetic influence among psychotic disorders and non-psychotic disorders.
A study suggested that Estrogen, a hormone that promotes the development of female characteristics is hypothesized to be protective for psychotic symptoms. Thus reduction of estrogen. This supports the fact that women tend to experience psychosis later in life than men do. Although it’s extremely rare, some women have menstrual psychosis. Myxedematous psychosis may happen when your thyroid gland doesn’t work well, known as hypothyroidism. In this case, the thyroid hormone starts affecting your brain which can cause hallucinations and delusions.
Studies show that there are differences in brain chemicals. Researchers suggest that dopamine plays an important role in psychosis. Evidence suggests that certain neurochemical transmitters also play a role in psychosis and can be corroborated through brain scans.
Treatment of Psychosis
A team of mental health professionals is likely to work together in the treatment of psychotic episodes. If this is your first episode you are likely to be referred to an early intervention team.
An early intervention team is a team of healthcare professionals who specifically work with people who have experienced the first episode of psychosis.
Depending on the needs of the patient, the team provides:
- Full assessment of the patient
- Social, occupational and educational intervention
- Online therapy or offline therapy
Treatment for psychosis is condition-specific. It depends on the underlying mental health conditions as well.
These medicines are the first recommendation for the treatment of psychosis. These drugs block the effect of dopamine, the chemical which transmits messages in the brain. However, these are not effective for everyone. There are high chances of side effects. People who have cardiovascular disease – conditions that affect the heart, blood vessels, or circulation, are closely observed if prescribed these medicines.
It helps in the reduction of the intensity of the anxiety caused by psychosis.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
CBT interventions help you understand your experiences and the reason for being distressed by them. These therapeutic techniques help you in getting a different perspective of the experiences.
Family interventions aim to help you by letting you and your family deal with the episode effectively. After the episode, it’s likely that you will rely on your family for care and support. Family members can help you out for the same, however, stress from taking care of someone can affect them.
If you’re experiencing episodes of psychosis, you may benefit from being around other people who’ve had similar experiences.
Psychosis can make the individual and those around them anxious, but treatment is available to help manage psychosis in those who are at risk. It is essential to follow the treatment plan for psychosis and other mental health conditions to prevent a relapse of symptoms, such as psychosis.
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