Basic Psychology, Psychopathology

Mental Disorders – Psychosis

People with psychoses lose touch with reality. Two of the main symptoms are delusions and hallucinations. Delusions are false beliefs, such as thinking that someone is plotting against you or that the TV is sending you secret messages. Hallucinations are false perceptions, such as hearing, seeing, or feeling something that is not there.

Psychotic disorders or  psychosis are severe mental disorders that cause abnormal thinking and perceptions or can be described as an abnormal condition of the mind that results in difficulties determining what is real and what is not.

Types of psychosis

  • Schizophrenia – a serious mental health disorder affecting the way someone feels, thinks, and acts. Individuals find it difficult to distinguish between what is real and what is imaginary.
  • Schizoaffective disorder – a condition similar to schizophrenia that includes periods of mood disturbances.
  • Brief psychotic disorder – psychotic symptoms last at least 1 day but no longer than 1 month. Often occurring in response to a stressful life event. Once symptoms have gone, they may never return.
  • Delusional disorder – the individual has a strong belief in something irrational and often bizarre with no factual basis. Symptoms last for 1 month or longer.
  • Bipolar psychosis – individuals have the symptoms of bipolar disorder (intense highs and lows in mood) and also experience episodes of psychosis. The psychosis more commonly occurs during manic phases.
  • Psychotic depression – also known as major depressive disorder with psychotic features.
  • Postpartum (also called postnatal) psychosis – psychosis that may develop during the six month period after childbirth.It is a severe form of Postpartum depression (PPD).
  • Substance-induced psychosis – including alcohol, certain illegal drugs, and some prescription drugs, including steroids and stimulants.


Causes of psychosis

  • Functional– Mental illness such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
  • Organic– Chemical imbalance, brain tumors, sleep deprivation.
  • Psychoactive drugs– Hallucinogens, amphetamines and barbiturates.

Specific symptoms

  • Disturbances in perception (hallucinations, e.g. hearing voices or seeing things that are not there)
  • Bizarre or clearly unjustified beliefs and judgements (delusions, e.g. beliefs of being persecuted with no external evidence, or thoughts of people being able to read one’s mind
  • Disorganized thinking (speaking in ways that are confusing), or bizarre behaviour

Treating psychosis

Treatment for psychosis involves using a combination of:

  • Antipsychotic medication – which can help relieve the symptoms of psychosis
  • Psychological therapies – the one-to-one talking therapy cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has proved successful in helping people with schizophrenia; in appropriate cases, family therapy has been shown to reduce the need for hospital treatment in people with psychosis
  • Social support – support with social needs, such as education, employment, or accommodation

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