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What is psychosis?

Psychosis is a mental health problem that causes people to perceive or interpret things differently from those around them. This might involve hallucinations or delusions.

Symptoms of psychosis

Hallucinations – where a person hears, sees and in some cases, feels smells or tastes things that aren’t there.

Delusions – where a person has strong beliefs that aren’t shared by others; a common delusion is someone believing there is a conspiracy to harm them.

Confused thoughts – confusing speech. Switching from one subject to another mid-sentence. Talking very fast. Sudden loss in their train of thoughts.

Links to other mental health conditions

People may experience episodes of psychosis if they have:

Bipolar disorder – when someone experiences episodes of mania, they may also experience symptoms of psychosis.

Schizophrenia – a mental health condition that causes hallucinations and delusions.

Substance misuse – alcohol or drug misuse can trigger psychotic episodes, particularly if someone stops using substances after a long period of time (withdrawal symptoms).

Postpartum psychosis – a rare but serious mental health condition that can happen to any woman following childbirth.

Helping someone with psychosis

  • If you believe someone is experiencing symptoms of psychosis approach them with a calm and caring attitude.
  • Choose an appropriate time and place where you will both feel comfortable.
  • The person may be very frightened about what they are experiencing and worry about what others may think about them.
  • The person may say things out of character which you may find unusual – do not dismiss what they say or try and correct the person
  • If they are experiencing a severe psychotic episode, the person should go to hospital. Call the emergency services for assistance.

Useful contacts

Hearing Voices Network – information and support for people who hear voices and local support groups
Website – https://www.hearing-voices.org/

National Paranoia Network – information and support for people who experience paranoid thoughts
Website – https://nationalparanoianetwork.org/

Royal College of Psychiatrists – The professional medical body responsible for supporting psychiatrists
Website – https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/mental-health

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