Psychosis - What
What is psychosis?
Psychosis is a medical term. It describes symptoms people have when they experience, believe or view things around them differently to other people. Some people don’t find it helpful to think about psychosis a mental illness.
If you have psychosis, you might see or hear things that others may not, or believe things other people do not. Some people describe it as a "break from reality". You may also hear terms such as “psychotic symptoms”, “psychotic episode” or “psychotic experience” describing the same thing.
In mental health care, these experiences are viewed as symptoms of mental illness. A report from the British Psychological Society has said that the use of experiences is more neutral than the term symptoms. We will use experience in order to ensure this section relates to everyone who reads it. As this report points out it can be difficult to discuss medical terms in a psychological way. Because of this there may be some overlap between medical and neutral terminology throughout this section.
If someone has psychosis they may not be aware of this and believe their experiences are real. About 1 in every 100 people will experience a psychotic episode in their lifetime.
Typical examples of psychosis include the following.
These are when you see, hear or feel things which are not actually there. For example:
- hearing voices,
- seeing things which other people do not see,
- feeling someone touching you who is not there, or
- smelling things which other people cannot.
These are beliefs that are not true and may seem irrational to others. For example you may believe:
- that you are being followed by secret agents or members of the public,
- that people are out to get you or trying to kill you. This can be strangers or family members,
- that something has been planted in your brain to monitor your thoughts, or
- you have special powers, are on a special mission or in some cases that you are a God.
You may not always find these experience distressing, although people do. You can stay in work and function at a high level in your life even if you have these experiences.
Cognitive experiences are ones that relate to mental action; such as learning, remembering and functioning.
Some cognitive experiences are associated with psychosis are:
- being unable to sustain attention,
- memory problems
- unable to take on information
- poor decision making
Different views on psychosis
Some people and cultures have different ideas about what causes mental illness. Depression and anxiety may be thought of as being caused by physical pain or discomfort. There can also be defences between the way you may view your own mental illness. You may feel that your psychotic symptoms are caused by ghosts or evil spirits for example. You may find it difficult to tell you doctor about this
Some encourage people with psychosis to embrace their symptoms and understand their meanings. The psychologist Rufus May believes that delusions can be symptoms of deeper psychological distress which people should work through. For example, if someone feels their being is being controlled by outside forces, this might stem from feelings of lack of control in their life.
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