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What is Psychosis


You have probably heard the word psychosis, it is often used in the everyday language of the layperson to mean “very mad”. In psychology, it is a condition where the person is not in contact with reality like most people. It can take several forms including :

· Sensing things that aren’t really there – hallucinations

· Believing things not based on reality – delusions

· Not realising there is anything wrong with them – lack of insight

· Problems thinking clearly – thought insertion, withdrawal, broadcasting thoughts.

There are a number of disorders that come under the general title of psychosis. They are all different in their symptoms, but are similar in the fact that the person is out of touch with reality. The disorders are :

· Schizophrenia

· Schioaffective disorder

· Manic-depression (bipolar disorder) – this will be covered in a later lesson

· Mania

· Delusional (Paranoid) Disorders

· Psychotic depression

However, there is a lot of controversy about psychiatric classifications of psychoses. Some experts are now arguing that it is more helpful to treat people according to their specific symptoms, e.g. Hearing voices in their head, than to put them under a wide label of “schizophrenic”, which can cover a wide range of people with very different problems. People with long term psychosis often have problems looking after themselves and getting on with other people.

It is not known what causes psychosis, but the most popular theories are :

· It is an inherited condition

· There is a “wiring problem” in the person’s brain.

· There is a chemical imbalance

· They are too anxious or stressed.

· It is a psychological defence mechanism

· A combination of the above.

· Psychosis is also brought on in some people by –using illegal drugs, such as LSD or cannabis

· Brain tumours (cancer)

· infections such as meningitis

· Epilepsy

· Head injuries

Treatment of Psychosis

Psychosis responds well to treatments such as antipsychotic medication and Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy. Family and group therapies also work well with some people. Traditional psychodynamic therapies do not seem to work well with this condition and can be potentially harmful.

Social skills training, occupational therapy and supported employment schemes can help long-term sufferers, but these do not cure the underlying psychosis. It is thought that if you catch the condition in the early stages – prodromal – you have been chance of treating it. Some people may only experience a single period of psychosis during this lives – called a single episode, whilst others will have problems for the rest of their lives.

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