What is Psychosis?

I started getting weird thoughts, feelings that people were watching me. I believed that I was being watched by cameras in my room, it was such a horrible feeling. My mind was full of thoughts I couldn’t control and wouldn’t go. Paranoia was taking over me and I felt everybody was out to get me and hurt me.

An important part of our role at the Early Intervention Team is to raise awareness about what psychosis is; to dispel some of the myths that exist about the illness, so that people understand the early signs for themselves or for others close to them and come forward for help during the important early stage of this condition.

So, what is psychosis?

The term psychosis is nowadays used to describe a whole range of conditions that affect the mind, which have in common the fact they result in a loss of contact with reality.

It is actually relatively common to experience the odd brief psychotic symptom growing up (such as hearing your name being shouted out when there is no one there) and we would usually only describe someone’s psychotic symptoms as an illness when they have lasted for more than a week or are causing a person distress.

A psychotic illness is often very confusing, scary and upsetting, especially when it first occurs because it is such an unfamiliar experience. Some people can feel the symptoms gradually growing and developing. Sometimes the onset of psychotic symptoms can feel like a special personal experience if for instance it leaves a person with a sense of having extra ordinary powers or of being at one with the wider world. Either way it usually gets in the way of your day to day life.

Your experiences may feel very real to you and it may be difficult to accept another explanation for what is happening, or see the need to get help and treatment.

We cannot stress enough however that psychosis is treatable, like any other illness. Everyday people are recovering from a first episode of psychosis; with about half of these people never experiencing a psychotic episode again.

A first episode of psychosis can occur at any point in your life, but it is most common during your late teens or early adulthood.

So what are the signs and symptoms of psychosis?

There are a lot of different types of psychotic symptoms; but if you have psychosis, it may be that you have only experienced one or two of these.

Some of the most common symptoms of psychosis include:

  • hearing voices, sounds or talking that others can’t (an auditory hallucination)
  • seeing things
  • smelling odd smells
  • unusual ideas or beliefs (delusions); these vary a lot from person to person. Examples might include concerns about government warnings or conspiracies, believing that you are being followed, have special religious powers, have a transmitter implanted in your body or that you have special status.
  • feeling the radio, television, music or magazines have messages directed just at you
  • feeling paranoid or suspicious
  • confused thinking, jumbled speech
  • feeling you, your thoughts or your body are being controlled from an external influence, a bit like mind control or telepathy
  • reduced motivation or drive to do things

If you have any of the above psychotic symptoms then we would encourage you to contact the Early Intervention Team directly to discuss your concerns, the service is there just for you and can help.

You may also want to check out these other pages of our site:

Early Signs to understand what can be early warning signs of the illness.

What is Early Intervention? to learn more about the importance of early intervention.

Types of psychosis for information about different types of psychosis.

Causes to find out more about possible causes.

Stigma page for support and advice if you find it hard to speak out and talk to someone about your illness.

© 2013 Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
Getting help is the right thing to do