There’s a lot of misunderstanding around psychosis. If someone experiences psychosis, it doesn’t mean that they’re dangerous, even though the media would have you think that. A psychotic episode is an isolating and terrifying experience where you completely lose touch with reality. When someone is having an episode they might:
Have hallucinations: they might see things that other people don’t, taste, smell, or feel things that other people can’t, and hear voices.
Have delusions: these are false beliefs that nobody but you has. For example, some people believe they have special powers or that someone or something is trying to cause them harm.
Have scrambled thoughts and speech: they can experience racing thoughts, move quickly from one topic of conversation to another, and speak rapidly or stumble over words.
What causes psychosis?
It’s important to remember that psychosis is not a diagnosis in itself, it’s often a symptom of other mental health conditions including:
- severe depression
- bipolar disorder
- post-partum psychosis
Though psychosis can occur where there is no existing mental health condition for example:
In cases of illness or injury
Psychosis can occur when you have a serious fever or a head injury
If you’ve taken drugs
Some illicit drugs like LSD or even prescription drugs can produce the symptoms of psychosis
If you have serious sleep deprivation
A chronic lack of sleep can cause hallucinations
If your blood sugar is low/you haven’t eaten enough
If your blood sugar is very low, you can experience hallucinations
Treatment for psychosis
- Talking therapies like CBT can help people understand what is happening and learn strategies to cope when they’re having a psychotic episode.
- Medication like antipsychotics are often for psychosis, sometimes alongside antidepressants or mood stabilising drugs depending on what other symptoms are present.
- People who experience psychosis are often put under the care of community teams made up of different professionals like psychiatrists, psychologists, community mental health nurses, social workers, and support workers. These teams do important work which aims to help people avoid being admitted to hospital.
I experience psychotic episodes, what can I do?
- Join a support group for people who experience psychosis such as The Hearing Voices Network.
- Know what triggers your episodes. Try keeping a journal or diary and note down any significant stressors, how your mood is, what you’ve had to eat, and how you’re sleeping. This might help you recognise patterns, know when you’re becoming unwell, and identify anything that might trigger an episode.
- Find ways to manage stress that work for you, whether it’s going for a walk, spending time with a pet, or spending time on a creative hobby.
- Make sure you get enough sleep.
- Eat a healthy diet and eat regularly.
- Take some exercise.
- Spend time in nature to ground yourself and feel less disconnected from the world around you.
I’m supporting someone who is experiencing psychosis, what can I do?
Seeing someone you care about experiencing psychosis can be bewildering and frightening. You don’t have to pretend you know exactly what to do, just:
- Listen to them and be supportive and calm (if they feel able to tell you how they’re feeling)
- Ask them how you can help
- Don’t go along with whatever they are experiencing or tell them it isn’t real, instead say “I know that’s what you’re experiencing but it’s not like that for me.”
- Help them access resources or services
- Don’t take over. When people are unwell, it can make things worse if they feel that others aren’t respecting their wishes.
- Look after yourself. It can be very tough supporting someone through a mental illness, so you need to make sure you look after your own wellbeing, whether it’s eating well and making time to relax, or speaking to a counsellor.
Would you know how to help someone during a psychotic episode?
Our Mental Health First Aid training can help you understand some common mental health conditions and how to support someone on a first aid basis so they get the help they need a lot quicker.
Would you like to know more?
You can register your interest by using the form on our contact page. The course tutor will then get in touch with you to discuss your needs. If you’d like any more information on any of our courses, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07917062257.