What is psychosis?
About 100,000 teenagers and young adults in the United States experience a first episode of psychosis every year. Most are between the ages of 15 and 25.
The good news, however, is that it is possible to heal and return to normal after psychosis. This happens most reliably when the required support system is present. With medication and additional therapy, some patients quickly recover. Others may continue experiencing less acute symptoms of psychosis.
Psychosis is a serious mental disorder that affects how your brain functions. This condition causes an individual to lose touch with reality. Psychosis interferes with how you think and see things.
Psychosis directly affects all areas of your daily life, but full recovery is probable with the right attitude, support, and information. If you are diagnosed with schizophrenia, you are likely to experience some symptoms of psychosis as well as other mental conditions. However, not all psychotic patients have schizophrenia.
Symptoms of psychosis
Some children diagnosed with schizophrenia may have other disorders that manifest in psychosis. These include obsessive-compulsive disorder or a pattern of obsessions that cause repetitive actions. Others will develop disorders such as OCD and panic disorder. Drug and substance abuse is also a common challenge among adolescents and young adults diagnosed with schizophrenia, which can quickly affect their symptoms.
At first, people may notice that you’ve become withdrawn. Even if you don’t have any other known emotional and behavioral issues, you are likely to isolate yourself from your environment. You may also become more focused on your thoughts, which are likely to be usually disturbing in nature. It’s even possible to hear or see things that other people don’t. Usually, these symptoms are grouped into what doctors call a psychotic break.
During such episodes, you may experience other symptoms, including:
- Lack of sleep
- Social withdrawal
- Troubled functioning
Psychotic breaks are usually quite terrifying, as the person affected and those around them may have never lived through such a thing before. It becomes a challenge to express yourself; meanwhile, those around you are forced to consider calling the police or taking you to the hospital.
Causes of psychosis
Many things have been associated with the onset of psychosis. Experts suggest that your genetics and environment may influence the development of psychosis. In some cases, however, psychosis can be caused by physical health problems. The most common risk factors are schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and severe depression. The possibility of the condition periodically recurring may affect your self-development.
Other known causes of psychosis are:
- Neurological conditions like dementia, Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s
- Brain injury
- Side effects of certain medications
- Effects of illegal drugs such as cannabis
- Effects of withdrawal from illegal drugs or alcohol
- Periods of severe stress or anxiety
There is scientific evidence that you can reduce the chances of a recurrence after appropriate treatment of a first episode. If you’re given the proper care and therapy within the first two to three years of your first psychotic break, the chances of relapse may be reduced by up to 50%. Treatment can also prevent you from suffering the disability that typically follows an untreated case.
If, after giving birth, you experience symptoms of psychosis, the condition is referred to as postpartum psychosis or puerperal psychosis. It is rare and most likely to happen suddenly within two weeks of delivery.
Doctors consider this condition an emergency and want to treat you as soon as possible, as there’s a risk of progressing into a more complex mental issue.
If you have postpartum psychosis, you may:
- Hear voices or worry too much
- Talk very fast
- Think very quickly
- Exhibit signs of depression
- Feel confused
- Be suspicious
Treatment of psychosis
Psychosis is not treated with only one method. It requires a concerted effort known as Coordinated Specialty Care. This intervention involves a combination of services managed by a group of professionals. This team works with you and your family to:
- Lower the doses of anti-psychotic medications
- Facilitate cognitive behavioral therapy for psychosis
- Provide family education and support
- Facilitate vocational rehabilitation
In the past, treatment of this condition involved high doses of medication without medical or therapeutic follow-ups. Today, however, the aim of psychosis treatment is to help you manage symptoms and prevent future repetitions of the condition.
A team approach. You’ll be assigned a psychiatrist whose main task is to monitor your medication. Your caregivers want to ensure you get the most benefit with as few risks and as little interference as possible. They try as much as possible to minimize problematic side effects.
Your treatment will include training to prevent and avoid stressful situations, as they can trigger relapses. Your family and friends are instrumental in offering the moral support needed to walk you through the healing process. Together with your caregiving team, they form a support network that can help you consistently attend your doctor appointments and ensure your nutrition needs are always met so that medication treatment is as effective as possible.
By focusing less on controlling the symptoms, you can learn to manage the overall condition. It’s recommended that you engage with your doctor and talk about your treatment options. There are people with psychosis who choose not to depend on medication. With the help of a professional, these people can fully recover on a lower dose or none at all.
Anti-psychotic medication. Although medication is available, your doctor may not consider it your best option. The side effects of anti-psychotic medicines make them less than ideal for use in developing young individuals. Some of the undesirable side effects of these drugs include dangerous weight gain.
Medication treatments for psychosis can benefit you and benefit the well-being of those around you. Since the condition is associated with stigma, giving medication makes it look like any other disease that you can get well from.
Awareness about the condition helps recovery a great deal. Knowing that you can get better provides encouragement and offers the hope that you only need to do as your medical team tells you to recover soon.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy for psychosis. When combined with support, cognitive-behavioral therapy is helpful in the treatment of psychosis. The risk of future episodes is reduced by half. It is especially applicable to the hallucinations typical of psychosis, changing your reaction to these experiences. If your thoughts and actions make you feel bad about yourself, cognitive-behavioral therapy will teach you how to change that and remove the distress and dysfunction.
The objective of cognitive-behavioral therapy is more about reduction of distress than it is about reduction of symptoms. Instead of highlighting the condition, your doctor will work to help you come to terms with reality and control your behavior. They will also help you make an informed decision about how you’re going to follow through with your medication.
Having a psychotic break does not mean the end for you. It’s a condition like any other, from which you can fully recover and get back to normal life. Effective medication and support are available. Countless people have been through psychosis, schizophrenia, and depression. What’s important is that sometimes things may go wrong, but they don’t always remain so.
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Child Mind Institute: "A Psychiatrist Rethinks Anti-psychotic Meds for Schizophrenia.", "Early Treatment for Schizophrenia Improves Outcomes.", "How Does CBT Help People With Psychosis?", "Schizophrenia: Risk For Other Disorders."
National Alliance on Mental Illness: "Psychosis."
Rethink Mental Illness: "Psychosis."
World Health Organization: "Schizophrenia."
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