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Psychosis: Causes, Diagnosis, Symptoms and Treatment

Psychosis: Causes, Diagnosis, Symptoms and Treatment

Have you ever felt lost in your imagination? Do you ever think that you are unable to regulate your emotions and face issues in diverting your mind to the actual world? If yes then you might be suffering from psychosis. If you want to know more about the psychosis disease then read this article. You will also get familiar with the causes of psychosis and treatment. So let’s get started!

What is psychosis?

Psychosis is one of the common mental conditions that affect the mental abilities of individuals. Their brain faces difficulty in processing the information and responding effectively. Such individuals have reduced control over their thoughts and emotions and they most often feel lost contact with reality. Moreover, they spend major time thinking about those things that in reality don’t exist. They see or sense those things that are not real and only exist in their imaginary world. They even don’t try to focus on the real world and feel pleasure in their strange thought patterns. Their undesired emotions and thoughts allow them to perceive reality in different ways that in return don’t support their mental health.

Psychosis and associated stigmas

There is a contradictory opinion among experts regarding psychosis. Some think that psychosis is just a symptom that occurs when a mental condition gets severe. While, on the other hand, some favor the concept of psychosis as a mental health disorder.

Likewise, some people think that the word psychosis has a meaning of ‘’dangerous’’. However, this is not correct as the effects of psychosis on each individual are also distinct. Some persons exhibit positive responses to the psychotic condition while some get adversely affected by the psychosis. If the persons suffering from the psychotic symptoms hear the voices of their loved ones then they feel pleasure or comfort. But hearing any horror or weird voices can lead them to fear stress or anxiety. The negative thoughts that appear during the psychosis also affect the behavior of individuals. They prefer isolation instead of interacting with others. Moreover, they feel an extra sense of fatigue or tiredness. Their sadness makes it difficult for them to get through their entire day. Throughout the day, they remain confused due to their anxious thoughts and don’t trust others in any community.

Symptoms of psychosis

The occurrence of psychotic symptoms occurs in a very progressive manner. Initially, some changes appear in the thoughts of individuals who are on the way to completely suffering from a psychotic condition. Some early signs of psychosis which also act as a warning sign to treat the situation are as follows:

  • Sense of guilt or embarrassment
  • Extreme stress
  • Reduced interest in social activities
  • Difficulty in focus or concentration
  • Failure in professional life
  • Increased intrusive thoughts

However, the major symptoms of psychosis that exhibit a major impact on the life of individuals are as follows:


A major symptom of psychosis that leaves the person in trouble of facing reality. They think that their observation is true while in reality things they are watching or the voices that they are hearing are not real. The following are the common types of hallucinations:

Visual hallucination: Seeing those things that are not present in reality.

Auditory hallucinations: Strange or weird voices are heard that don’t have any link with the true reality.

Tactile hallucination: Sensation of strange things in a close vicinity

Gustatory hallucinations: Sense of taste that is different from the actual taste of a thing.

Olfactory hallucinations: Senses of smell that are distinct from the real odors


Other than hallucinations, delusions are also common during the psychotic condition. Some major and common types of delusions are as follows:

Thought broadcasting

Individuals with delusions often think that individuals understand their thoughts and perceptions while in reality, other individuals don’t perceive their thoughts to a great extent.

Erotomanic delusion

Individuals with this type of delusion think that all the individuals around them love them.

Delusions of grandeur

Such individuals think that they retain some superpowers and can do anything.

How to diagnose the psychosis?

Only mental health professionals can better diagnose the psychotic condition. They assess the symptoms of psychosis and then implement the treatment plans. There is no blood test or brain test to determine the psychotic condition. Psychological evaluation is used to analyze the symptoms of psychosis. Different questions are asked of the individuals combating psychotic issues. During the assessment, previous medical history and family history are also determined to pinpoint the actual cause and symptoms of psychosis.

How long can psychosis last?

The duration of psychosis and its associated episodes vary for each individual. Moreover, it depends on various factors including the causes of psychosis and the resulting behavior. Some episodes of psychosis last for only a few days while some persist for weeks or months if not properly treated. Moreover, if the occurring mental illness including schizophrenia gets severe then the duration of psychotic episodes also increases.

What are the causes of psychosis?

Various studies have suggested that psychosis is not caused by any single factor. Numerous factors can lead to the development of psychotic disorder which are as follows:

  • Environmental stress factors
  • Brain injury or trauma
  • Deformities in brain developement
  • Substance abuse
  • Child abuse
  • Deficiency of nutrients
  • Maternal stressors
  • Hormonal disturbances
  • Sleep deprivation

Moreover, psychosis can also result as a symptom of some mental illnesses which include:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Severe depression
  • Alzheimer disease
  • Parkinson disease

What happens in the brain during a psychotic condition?

If the psychosis results as symptom of mental disorders including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder then it is responsible for numerous brain alterations. In the case of schizophrenic disorder, psychosis appears as a major symptom but it can also lead to some other adverse symptoms including emotional dysregulation, a hyperarousal state as well as an elevated rate of activation of brain circuits. If these symptoms get severe then various negative changes occur in the brain which in turn can also lead to brain damage.

Age is a major factor that is linked with susceptibility to psychosis. Teenagers are at more risk of developing psychosis as compared to others. However, some researchers have supported the fact that the risk of developing the psychotic condition increases as the age proceeds.

Furthermore, psychotic conditions also lead to some changes in different brain regions. Some evident changes appear in the grey matter of the brain. As the psychic condition progresses, the thickness and volume of the grey matter are affected. Moreover, similar changes also occur in the white matter of the brain. Due to these negative actions, the functioning of neurons gets affected and they cannot send messages through the nervous system. Furthermore, the signaling at the synapse is also affected due to the onset of psychosis.

Phases of psychosis

A common psychotic episode comprises the following phases:


This is the initial stage of psychosis in which symptoms are not obvious and the person faces difficulty in recognizing them. Different individuals have different perspectives regarding this initial stage of psychosis. Moreover, their perceptions and thoughts change with time. Likewise, they experience different behavioral changes in the prodrome stage which include disturbance in the sleep-wake cycle, anxiety, depression, a decline in brain function, and reduced levels of concentration and motivation.

Acute phase

The acute stage of psychosis involves the emergence of psychotic symptoms that were not evident earlier. This phase is also referred to as the critical period as individuals can take control of this condition if they want. However, if this phase is left unnoticed then it progresses to the next phases. Hallucinations and delusions are the major symptoms that appear during the acute phase and the individuals start taking stress or anxiety due to their onset and adverse effects. Furthermore, during this phase, family or loved ones notice the changes in their behavior and guide them to seek professional help.

Recovery phase

Individuals can experience different episodes of psychosis, but with effective recovery and treatment, they can prevent the onset of new episodes after their initial psychotic episode. Fortunately, the psychotic condition is treatable and individuals have to just prepare the mind to treat this mental condition.

What are the major types of psychosis?

The common types of psychotic disorder are as follows:

Brief psychotic disorder

The brief psychotic disorder is short-lived as not only the onset of symptoms is rapid but they also vanish quickly. Moreover, the extent of psychosis symptoms is also reduced as compared to the other types. Stress is the major factor that causes the development of a brief psychotic disorder. The symptoms of psychosis caused by stress typically last for a few days and do not persist for weeks or months.


Schizophrenia is also a common mental condition that affects brain function and development. Individuals with schizophrenia are unable to focus on essential life tasks and fail to achieve excellence in their both personal and professional lives.

Bipolar disorder

Individuals with bipolar disorder experience sudden and undesired alterations in their mood and the resulting behavior. They sense extreme excitement and pleasure at one point in their life, While on the other hand, they get depressed easily. Both these episodes occur in an alternative manner. The severity of bipolar disorder is directly linked with the onset of psychosis.

Schizoaffective disorder

Individuals with this common mental condition experience major depressive disorder. They also experience psychotic symptoms which lead to drastic effects on their behavior.

Organic psychosis

Although various environmental factors lead to changes in the brain, some changes occur naturally which leads to organic psychosis. In addition, some other major causes of organic psychosis include brain stroke, brain injury as well as some major neurodegenerative disorders.

Postpartum psychosis

As the name indicates, this mode of psychosis occurs after the child’s birth. Females suffering from psychosis experience major mood swings. Moreover, if the condition gets severe then it also leads to hallucinations and delusions. Such affected females are unable to strengthen their relationships with others. They don’t care for their family or their baby. Moreover, they can also cause harm to themselves and baby.

Delusional disorder

This psychotic condition involves delusions that last for multiple days. Although affected individuals have wrong beliefs and perceptions still they stick to their points with confidence. Moreover, some individuals with delusional disorder experience hallucinations at the same time while some are just restricted to the delusions of psychosis.

Schizotypal personality disorder

This personality disorder is also a common type of psychosis. Individuals suffering from this disorder cannot develop a bond with their loved ones. Moreover, they have reduced control over their behavior. Such individuals do not easily trust others and prefer to stay alone instead of participating in any social community.

Drug-induced psychosis

The excessive use of drugs is also responsible for the developement of psychosis. Some major types of drugs that are responsible for this mental issue include marijuana, cocaine as well as amphetamine.

Learn more: Bipolar disorder: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Causes & Treatment

Psychosis in children

Psychosis is also a common mental condition in children. Children experience a few major issues in their brain development. Affected children don’t pay attention in their classrooms and fail to get grace marks. Moreover, they also avoid making new friends and prefer to stay at home. The symptoms of psychosis usually appear in children aged 12 years and older, However, the onset of symptoms before 12 is quite rare.

Moreover, children suffering from schizophrenia exhibit various abnormalities including learning and language issues. With the progressive stages of schizophrenia, other psychotic symptoms also appear. Some major signs of signs of psychosis in children include:

  • Issues in motor development
  • Anger outburst
  • Extreme anxiousness
  • Irritability
  • Disruptive behavior

Furthermore, the major early signs of psychosis in children that should be considered as warnings are as follows:

  • Extreme sense of confusion
  • Brain malfunctioning
  • Difficulty in making bonds
  • Suspicious act or behavior
  • Elevated sensitivity to environmental stimuli
  • Social isolation
  • Emotional dysregulation
  • Trouble in sleep

Psychosis in Teenagers

Just like children, teenagers are also at risk of developing a psychotic disorder. However, the response of a teenager is quite different from the psychosis condition. Moreover, different studies have reported that parents of some teenagers don’t consider the early warning signs of psychosis in the early developmental stages. They misinterpret the signs of psychosis as their mood swings. However, this is not appropriate as parents should consider the arousing mental situation and should perform early intervention to overcome the psychosis.

In teenagers, warning signs of psychosis in teenagers includes:

  • Reduced control over emotions
  • Unusual body movements
  • Hygiene issues

Treatment of psychosis

The recovery of psychotic symptoms is not rapid. However, with the appropriate support, you can deal with psychosis and can experience recovery from the psychotic symptoms. Medication management and psychotherapy are the two major treatment strategies that are used by professionals to treat or prevent the onset of psychosis.


Mental health professionals recommend the medications to reduce the extent of psychotic symptoms. Antipsychotics are widely recommended by experts to treat psychotic conditions.  Some common and widely used antipsychotics are as follows:


Psychotherapies and talk therapies are considered the best means to overcome the symptoms of psychosis. Different types of talk therapies are utilized by our experts which include cognitive behavior therapy. Various recent studies have reported the efficiency of cognitive behavioral therapy against psychosis. Moreover, some favor the combined use of psychotherapies and psychiatric medications to diminish the symptoms of psychosis.

Experts develop a secure and friendly environment where individuals share their all mental health concerns with the experts to seek relief from this mental condition. The main goal of experts is to determine the factors that lead to their undesired thoughts. They perform a thorough evaluation to find out how they think about the situation and exhibit their behavioral response accordingly. The therapist teaches the individuals how they can change their thoughts to get relief from stress. They don’t focus on urging the individuals to think about their psychotic symptoms. Instead of this, they just provide the desired and effective guidance to eradicate the damage of their altered thought patterns.

Family therapy

Individuals struggling with any mental condition feel secure and comfortable in the presence of their loved ones. Experts also encourage the participation of family members in group therapy sessions. Their family members also better understand them and assist the individuals that how they can utilize the coping strategies for the psychosis.

Other modifications in lifestyle

By making some positive alterations in your life, you can prevent the psychosis.

Regular sleep patterns

Adequate sleep is vital to prevent psychosis. If you are not getting sufficient sleep then your brain will become more susceptible to psychosis. However, sufficient sleep makes the mind strong and active and also prevents stress, one of the major trigger factors of psychosis. Therefore, if you want to prevent psychosis then make sure that you are getting adequate sleep of about 5 to 8 hours then your brain will perform the optimal function and stay protected from the onset of psychosis.

Nutritious food

Diet also plays an important role in the development of a healthy brain state and the ultimate prevention of psychosis. Make sure that your diet should include fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains as well as lean meat. The presence of organic nutrients in the food plays a major role in managing the symptoms of psychosis.

Extracurricular activities

Participation in productive life activities is also extremely useful in managing psychosis. Parents should develop extracurricular activities at their home including painting, drawing, reading, etc. Encourage your child to focus on each activity and learn from them. The extracurricular activities can result in the development of social as well as different innovative skills.

Moreover, teachers should also make such plans at school to promote the interest of individuals in, learning activities.

Psychosis & Schizophrenia

Both psychosis and schizophrenia are mental conditions but they exhibit the major differences. Psychosis is an isolated mental condition that involves reduced contact with reality and the individuals spend major time without any senses. However, schizophrenia is one of the mental illnesses that lead to the developement of a psychotic condition. However, psychosis does not lead to the onset of the symptoms of schizophrenia.

Last thoughts

Psychosis comprises the symptoms that urge individuals to perceive reality in the wrong way. Hallucinations and delusions are the common symptoms that affect the mental state of individuals. Stress, mental trauma, childhood abuse, etc are one of the major causes of psychosis. However, with talk therapy and medication management, individuals can prevent the onset of psychosis.

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Dr. Reri Uku


Dr. Reri Uku is a board certified psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP-BC). Her expertise lies in her ability to provide quality, compassionate, and comprehensive mental health
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As an adjunct faculty at California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB), she values interdisciplinary education and inter-professional collaboration for a student-centered learning approach to provide safe and effective patient care.

She earned her Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) from Azusa Pacific University in 2018 and her Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner from National University in 2019. She graduated from California State University, San Bernardino master’s program with majors in Nurse Education and Advanced Community/Public Health in 2014. She became a registered nurse in 2010 and her background includes experiences in Medical Surgical Nursing, Neurology, Oncology and Psychiatry.

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Mohammad I Hussain is an experienced mental health expert. He has set the records by offering commendable mental health services. Mohammad I Hussain is renowned for his effective strategies against several mental health disorders. Mohammad I Hussain perfectly entered into the medical era by completing the graduation from Walden University. He also obtained an Associate Degree in Nursing from Pasadena City College. His diverse work experience at different medical institutes is the actual representation of his incredible psychiatric skills. Mohammad I Hussain is perfectly familiar with all the effective strategies against varied mental illnesses including ADHD, anxiety, depression, OCD bipolar disorder, etc.

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