We have all probably heard of the word psychotic. In everyday language it is generally used to mean something like “really mad”.
Psychosis, in psychological language, is a condition in which a person is not in contact with reality like most people.
Psychosis can take many forms, it can include:
• Sensing things that are not really there (called Hallucinations).
• Having beliefs that are not based on reality (called Delusions).
• Problems in thinking clearly (e.g. thought insertion, withdrawal).
• Not realising that there is anything wrong with themselves (called lack of insight).
In Psychiatry there are a number of disorders that come under the general title of the psychoses. They all differ in symptoms, but all are joined in the fact that the person is in someway not experiencing reality like most people.
• Schizoaffective Disorder.
• Bipolar Disorder.
• Delusional (Paranoid) Disorders.
• Psychotic Depression.
In fact, there is quite a lot of controversy about the psychiatric classification of the psychoses. With many experts, now arguing, that it is more helpful to treat people according to the specific symptoms that they have (for example hearing voices in their head) rather than putting them under a label such as “schizophrenic”, which can cover widely different people, with widely different problems.
People suffering with a long-term psychosis often have problems looking after themselves, and getting on well with other people.
What Causes It
No one really knows, pretty much every possible suggestion has been made throughout the years.
Some popular theories include:
• You inherit it (through your DNA).
• You have a ‘wiring problem’ in your brain.
• You have a chemical imbalance in your brain.
• You get too anxious or stressed.
• It is a psychological defence mechanism.
• Any combination of the above.
Although we know psychosis can be brought on in some people by:
• Using illegal drugs (for example, cannabis, LSD).
• Infections (for example, meningitis).
• Brain tumours.
• Head injuries.
What Treatment Is There?
Psychosis has been shown to respond well to treatments such as antipsychotic medication, and more recently Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) as been suggested as working well. In addition, family and group therapies are often suggested as working well with certain individuals.
Social skills training, occupational therapy, and supported employment schemes have been shown to help some long-term sufferers, without necessarily treating the underlying psychosis.
Current thinking propose that if you catch psychosis at its early stages (called prodromal), you have better prospects in treating it.
It is important to note that just because an individual is “prodromal” does not mean that they will go on to develop psychosis. You would not assume that someone is inevitably developing measles simply because they have a fever. Likewise, you should not assume that someone will inevitably go on to develop psychosis simply because they are experiencing prodromal symptoms.
Do People Recover?
A number of people who experience a psychotic episode may only experience it once throughout their whole life (this is called a ‘single episode’), however, other people may have problems with it for the rest of their lives.
© 2014 – 2015, Content: Dr Vasilios Silivistris – Artwork: Ian Francis. All rights reserved.