What is psychosis? 

Psychosis includes a variety of mental health conditions that can cause a person to have a distorted experience of reality. During a psychotic episode, thoughts and perceptions may become disturbed to the point that an individual has difficulty differentiating between what is real and what is not. The specific pattern of symptoms and occurrence of psychotic episodes can vary significantly from person to person.

These are some specific diagnoses that may be given:

  • Schizophrenia – a chronic and severe mental disorder that impacts how a person thinks, feels and behaves, causing them to have a distorted experience of reality
  • Schizoaffective disorder – characterized by persistent symptoms of psychosis resembling schizophrenia, but with additional intermittent symptoms of mood (or affective) disorders
  • Bipolar disorder (with psychotic features) – also known as maniac depression, there are four general types of bipolar disorder, all of which cause clear changes in mood, energy or activities, from high to low
  • Unspecified psychosis – this generalized diagnosis is given when an individual has a psychotic episode, but does not meet any other criteria for a more specific diagnosis like those above

Symptoms of psychosis

Depressed looking boy

Early signs of psychotic illnesses may be hardly noticeable, becoming more disruptive over time. Not everyone will suffer the same challenges or progression.

Some of the most common symptoms of varying severity include:

  • Trouble concentrating
  • Disorganization
  • Anxiety
  • Odd behavior or thinking/change in normal behavior
  • Isolation/social withdrawal
  • Emotional changes/depression
  • Disrupted sleep
  • Delusions/difficulty recognizing reality
  • Paranoia: an unfounded, illogical belief that someone or something is out to harm you
  • Hallucinations: seeing, feeling, hearing or tasting something that isn’t really there