Psychosis is a diagnosis that may be given to someone who experiences intense changes in how they think, feel and experience the world. In making a diagnosis of psychosis, doctors will ask about changes that are unusual for you. These can include:  

  • hallucinations: hearing, seeing or experiencing things that no one else does
  • delusions: beliefs that don’t seem logical or real to other people
  • difficulty thinking and communicating
  • not feeling like doing anything
  • sleeping a lot or not enough
  • losing interest in taking care of yourself
  • difficulty in planning 
  • not wanting to talk to people 
  • feeling less emotion than usual
  • losing interest in socialising, hobbies or activities

Hallucinations

This is when you hear, see or experience things that no one else does. Hallucinations can sometimes be frightening and can affect all of your senses.

Hearing: you might hear voices speaking to you that others can’t hear. These voices could be friendly or frightening.
Taste: you might experience strange tastes.
Sight: you might see things that no one else can see.
Feeling: you might experience strange sensations in your body.
Smell: you might smell something that others can’t smell.

Delusions

Delusions are beliefs that don’t seem logical or real to other people, but seem very real to the person experiencing them. For example, you might believe that the television is talking to you, but no one believes you.

Some people may experience a psychotic episode and it will never return. For others, psychotic symptoms may persist and the diagnosis may change as a result.

The range of diagnoses that involve psychosis include:

  • First episode psychosis (or schizophreniform psychosis): this diagnosis may be given to a person who is experiencing these symptoms for the first time and symptoms have not persisted for longer than six months.
  • Drug induced psychosis: this refers to the experience of psychosis as a result of drug or alcohol use. Psychotic symptoms are likely to go away once the substance is out of the person’s system, but the person can be vulnerable to experiencing psychosis again when using the same substance.
  • Schizophrenia: this diagnosis may be given if psychotic symptoms persist for longer than six months.
  • Bipolar disorder and depression: psychosis can occur when someone is experiencing mania, and also when they are experiencing severe depression.

These types of experiences can have a significant impact on daily life, including relationships, work, physical health and sense of self. 

Treatment and support will be different for each person. Mental health professionals should help you find treatments and supports that work best for you. This may be a combination of medication, rehabilitation and professional, family, community and peer support.

If the person is experiencing a drug induced psychosis, they may benefit from specialised drug and alcohol support.

A diagnosis will mean different things to different people. It is only one way of understanding your experiences and what might support your recovery. It can help to do your own research and talk to a range of professionals, trusted family and friends, or to people who have had similar experiences.

Regardless of diagnosis, people do recover and live well.

If you need to talk, call our Helpline.

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For more information, please contact Wellways on 1300 111 400.