Bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder, and schizophrenia are all mental health conditions in which psychosis can be a symptom. A debilitating symptom that signifies that a person has lost touch with the world, psychosis can cause hallucinations, delusions, disorganized thinking or speech, bizarre physical behaviors, and negative symptoms. Furthermore, if an individual abuses substances or experiences drastic hormonal or metabolic changes, these same symptoms can occur indicating that an individual has experienced the onset of psychosis. Lasting anywhere from a few days to weeks or even over a long period of time, psychosis can lead to a number of detrimental effects if a person does not seek treatment to alleviate these often distressing symptoms.
Characteristics of Psychosis
Psychotic symptoms include a number of unique features. If a person is suffering from psychosis, the following may be present:
Hallucinations can affect a person’s ability to correctly interpret the world around him or her. Involving lack of stimuli from the outside world, hallucinations are voices that are different from an individual’s internal monologue that others cannot hear and the presence of things or people that others cannot see. It is important to note that the sufferer is not in control of his or her hallucinations.
Delusions are rigid belief systems. People experiencing delusions may believe that harm or catastrophes are imminent, cues from the outside world are personally directed, one possesses abilities that are exceptional, others are in love with him or her, or even that an outside source is controlling the sufferer’s thoughts. Moreover, a person struggling with delusions may think that information is being implanted or extracted from his or her mind. The severity of a person’s delusions depends on how strongly he or she believes in said delusions despite proof that discredits these ideas.
Disorganized thinking is when a person communicates thoughts or ideas that do not seem to make sense. This type of thinking is often conveyed at a rapid rate as the sufferer is receiving information and experiencing emotions at an accelerated pace. On the other hand, some people with disorganized thinking may have slowed thought processes and have a great deal of difficulty communicating thoughts or ideas.
Abnormal physical behaviors can manifest differently. For some, catatonia, or absence of movement, occurs and leaves the sufferer in a statue-like state and can also cause a person to lose his or her ability to speak. Other abnormal behaviors can include child-like playfulness, repetitious behaviors, staring, and echoing. Frequently, these behaviors occur in response to the environment around an individual.
Negative symptoms are the removal of certain normal human functions. These symptoms are commonly associated with schizophrenia and can cause flat affect (diminished facial expression), hindered speech, and decreased socialization with the world around them.
Causes and Risk Factors for Psychosis
Experts believe that a combination of several factors can determine if a person is susceptible to the development of psychotic symptoms. Since research has yet to determine the sole cause of psychosis, please consider the following notions:
Genetic: The presence of psychotic symptoms in a person’s family history is known to be extremely influential in determining the likelihood that an individual will develop psychosis at some point in his or her lifetime. Because of this, it can be concluded that a person’s genes play a role in the onset of psychosis.
Physical: Medical conditions that alter a person’s chemistry can lead to the manifestation of psychosis. Conditions like kidney disease, autoimmune disorders, neurological conditions, and medical illnesses that affect hormone levels and metabolic function can trigger psychotic symptom onset.
Environmental: Extreme changes to a person’s environment are believed to contribute to the onset of psychosis. Additionally, traumas like abuse, being a victim of a crime, or extreme neglect can render a person more susceptible to experience a psychotic episode or episodes.
- Preexisting mental illness
- Undiagnosed mental illness
- Family history of mental health conditions
- Substance use
- Exposure to toxic substances
- Having recently given birth
- Exposure to trauma / abuse / neglect
- Being the victim of a crime
- Lack of appropriate coping skills
- Limited social skills
Disorders associated with Psychotic Symptoms
Medical conditions are commonly known to affect a person’s physical health. However, there are some conditions that can alter an individual’s normal brain functioning and produce psychotic symptoms as a result.
Postpartum psychosis occurs as a result of imbalances or surges of hormones following the birth of a child. Because hormones are known to regulate a person’s mood and emotions, sometimes psychosis can be induced if one’s hormone levels within the brain do not reach homeostasis.
Certain forms of dementia can produce psychotic symptoms as the illness progresses. The most common forms of psychotic symptoms associated with advanced stages of dementia are paranoid delusions and visual hallucinations.
Bipolar disorder involves episodes of mania, extreme elevations in mood. Sometimes, when in the throes of a manic episode, a person can experience symptoms of psychosis.
Schizoaffective disorder is a mental illness in which a person experiences mood disturbances, similar to those experienced with bipolar disorder, and comparable symptoms frequently associated with schizophrenia. The union of these two components in one disorder can often produce episode of psychosis.
Schizophrenia, a disorder that is frequently associated with psychotic features, is denoted by several, pervasive symptoms of psychosis. This mental health condition often involves a significant amount of impairment as the psychotic symptoms regularly challenge a person’s ability to decipher what is real and what is a delusion or hallucination.
Signs and Symptoms of Psychosis
Depending on the frequency and severity of symptoms present, there are a number of indicators that would signify that a person is suffering from psychosis. These indicators can include the following:
- Responding to stimuli that others cannot see
- Impaired motor functioning
- Disorganized thoughts
- Incoherent speech
- Peculiar behaviors
- Withdrawal or total isolation from friends and loved ones
- Self-harming behaviors
- Flay affect
- Increased surged of emotions
- Declined interest in previously enjoyed things or activities
- Depressed mood
- Poor hygiene
Treatment for Psychosis
Because the presence of psychosis infers the existence of a mental health condition and due to the fact that these symptoms can cause a great deal of destruction in a person’s life, acute inpatient hospitalization is often the most appropriate environment to begin the recovery process in trying to alleviate these symptoms. In this setting, an individual is free to immerse him or herself in treatment that is free from the everyday stressors of life. Medication is frequently recommended and it is in acute inpatient care that a person suffering from psychosis can explore medication options and alleviate the most distressing symptoms while under the constant supervision of medical staff. Furthermore, qualified and experienced mental health professionals are at an individual’s fingertips 24 hours a day to provide support and help in understanding symptoms better. Despite the fact that modern medicine has yet to cure psychosis, inpatient treatment can be a beacon of hope for those who are seeking happy, healthy lives free from psychotic symptoms.
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