What is Psychosis?
When people are ill with psychosis, they can find it hard to tell the difference between what is real and what isn’t. They might hear voices that other people can’t hear, and these voices might say very nasty things. They might get worried that other people might want to hurt them, or that they might be being followed, or have some other strange-sounding ideas. Sometimes people stop wanting to talk to other people, have problems with sleeping and eating, and can have trouble looking after themselves.
We don’t completely understand why some people get it and some people don’t, but there are lots of different reasons why people might become unwell. Psychosis can happen with some illnesses, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Sometimes people with depression can also have psychosis, and sometimes people who are poorly for other reasons can experience psychosis too. And although we don’t know exactly how it happens, we think it is probably to do with levels of certain chemicals in the brain.
Having psychosis can be really scary, and when people are really scared they can do things that they wouldn’t usually do, which can be frightening for other people too. Many people can be treated for psychosis and stay at home, but like with a lot of serious illnesses, people sometimes get so poorly they need to go to hospital to get better, and sometimes when people are really unwell they can be made to go and stay in hospital. When people are in hospital there will be a team helping people get better, including nurses, psychiatrists (doctors who work in mental health), psychologists, social workers, and occupational therapists. A different team will look after people when they are being treated at home or when they have left hospital.
Advice on coping with Psychosis:
Luckily there are lots of ways to help people with psychosis get better. For example, medicines are often used. These are called anti-psychotics, and people can take tablets, liquids, or sometimes have injections. These can help people’s scary experiences get better very quickly. There are also special talking therapies where people who have experienced psychosis can talk about what happened to them and think about ways to understand and manage it. Teams can also help with things like work and doing helpful activities. There are also a lot of charities and other groups that can help.
Although a lot of people get better, some people still have some symptoms even when taking medicines and having support. Sometimes people get poorly again, and when they do the team looking after them might need to use a different medicine, or use a different treatment, or they might need to go back to hospital.
Written by Dr Oliver Batham