About Psychosis

What is Psychosis?

The term “psychosis” describes conditions that affect the mind, causing a loss of contact with reality or trouble deciding what’s real and what’s not. “Early psychosis” or “first episode psychosis” means someone is experiencing psychosis for the first time.

Common symptoms of psychosis include:

  • hallucinations,
  • delusions (false beliefs),
  • paranoia, or
  • disorganized thoughts and speech.

Often these symptoms can feel so real that you may not realize you are experiencing psychosis. Because psychosis affects a person’s mind, feelings, and behaviour, everyone who experiences psychosis experiences it differently.

There are times where the psychotic symptoms are more intense or frequent and can interfere with everyday life. These are called episodes. The duration of an episode varies from person to person and from episode to episode. An episode may last only a few hours or days, but can go on for weeks, months, or even years without proper treatment or support.

Because psychosis occurs in a variety of mental and physical disorders, it is difficult to pinpoint a definitive cause for psychotic episodes. Current theories involve the roles of biology, stress, and substance abuse. Some types of psychosis may be caused by dysfunction in the brain’s neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemicals in the brain that help communication between the cells of the brain called neurons. Others, such as schizophrenia, may include a genetic component (if a close relative has experienced psychosis, you may be at greater risk yourself). For someone with a biological vulnerability to psychosis, an episode can be triggered by stress or by substance abuse, and some types of drugs, such as amphetamines, can cause a psychotic episode on their own.

Psychosis affects people of all cultures, classes, and genders. It is estimated that approximately 3% of people will experience a psychotic episode at least once in their life. Most first episodes occur in the teen years or early adulthood.