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Psychosis Types, Signs and Treatment

People experiencing psychosis may act strangely. They’re likely hearing voices or seeing things that don’t exist. They’re scared, confused and need help. If you or a loved one shows early signs of psychosis, it’s important to get treatment as quickly as possible.

Banner Health offers comprehensive physical and mental health care to help patients with psychosis achieve recovery. Our behavioral health experts work with patients and their families to develop a treatment plan to meet their specific needs. Banner Health’s team of compassionate, knowledgeable health care professionals is here to support you and your loved ones through the most difficult times.

What Is Psychosis?

Psychosis is a mental health condition that affects your sense of reality. During a psychotic episode, patients may see, hear and believe things that are not real, and display odd behaviors, thoughts and emotions. These psychotic episodes can be frightening and stressful for both the patient and their loved ones.

Psychosis is more common than you might think. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NAMI), 100,000 young people experience psychosis each year with 3 percent of people experiencing it in their lifetime. 

Types of Psychosis

  • Schizophrenia: The most common psychotic disorder, patients with schizophrenia experience hallucinations and delusions. These changes in behavior often disrupt a patient’s ability to socialize and work. Related conditions include:
    • Schizoaffective disorder: Patients have schizophrenia and a mood disorder such as depression. 
    • Schizophreniform disorder: Patients experience symptoms of schizophrenia, but for a shorter duration (usually less than six months). 
    • Paraphrenia: Patients have symptoms similar to schizophrenia, and it usually occurs in the elderly.

Not all patients with psychosis have schizophrenia; however, schizophrenia causes psychosis symptoms. Psychosis may be caused by illnesses other than schizophrenia, such as depression, bipolar disorder, dementia and borderline personality disorder. 

  • Delusional disorder: Patients with delusional disorder have a strong belief that something false is true. These situations may include a cheating spouse, being followed or someone being in love with you. Delusional disorder is fairly rare, more often occurring in the middle to later years in life. However, delusions can be a symptom of more common disorders or illnesses.

  • Psychotic disorders: Patients with psychotic disorders have difficulty understanding what’s real. Types of psychotic disorders include:
    • Brief psychotic disorder: This condition usually comes on suddenly, often triggered by stress. Symptoms generally go away within a few weeks.
    • Substance-induced psychotic disorder: Starting or stopping certain drugs such as alcohol, opioids, amphetamines and sedatives may cause psychosis. Symptoms go away after the patient stops using or completes withdrawal from the drug.
    • Shared psychotic disorder: This condition occurs when people in a relationship share the same delusion.
    • Medical conditions: Head injury or illness affecting the brain may lead to hallucinations, delusions or other psychotic symptoms.

What Causes Psychosis?

Psychosis affects people from all walks of life. While the cause of psychosis remains unknown, several factors are likely involved.

What Are Risk Factors for Psychosis?

  • Age and hormones: Teenagers and young adults are at increased risk of experiencing psychosis due in part to hormone changes in their brain during puberty.
  • Genetics: You may be more likely to experience psychosis if you have a close relative with a psychotic disorder.
  • Stress, anxiety and trauma: Experiencing a traumatic event or immense stress and anxiety can trigger a psychotic episode.
  • Lack of sleep
  • Substance abuse: Using drugs, alcohol and medications may lead to psychosis in vulnerable patients.
  • Illness or injury: A brain injury, neurological problem or other health condition such as stroke, HIV or dementia can sometimes cause psychosis.
  • Mental health conditions: Psychosis can be a symptom of a disorder such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder or depression.

Can Psychosis Be Prevented?

While, there is no way to prevent psychosis, early intervention leads to the best outcomes. With proper treatment, patients diagnosed with a psychotic disorder can lead normal, productive lives.

If you or a loved one is having symptoms of psychosis, it’s important to seek care from a doctor. Banner Health’s compassionate behavior health team provides expert care, treatment and resources for patients experiencing psychosis and their families.

What Are Signs and Symptoms of Psychosis?

Psychosis can be frightening, confusing and distressing for both the patient and their families. It’s important to know the symptoms and seek help early.

Symptoms of psychosis frequently includes:

  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Decline in hygiene
  • Delusions (false beliefs)
  • Depressed mood
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Hallucinations (seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting or feeling something that is not real)
  • Inappropriate behavior
  • Incoherent or nonsense speech
  • Lack of motivation
  • Paranoia
  • Rapid mood swings
  • Sleep problems
  • Social withdrawal
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions

What Are Early Warning Signs of Psychosis?

The first signs of psychosis can be difficult to detect. You may not realize there is a problem. However, if you experience any of these changes, you should talk to your doctor:

  • Becoming overly suspicious
  • Developing new, bizarre beliefs
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Distancing yourself from loved ones
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Seeing or hearing things others cannot

How is Psychosis Diagnosed?

Often, families are the first to notice signs of psychosis. However, it can be difficult to address treatment with loved ones. It’s not uncommon if a patient is unwilling to get help. This can be complicated by the patient’s symptoms such as delusions, suspicions and depression, as well as the stigma attached to mental health treatment.

While this situation can be difficult, Banner Health offers patients and their families expert guidance, resources and strategies to help encourage a person to seek help.

Testing for Psychosis

Doctors use physical, neurological and psychological evaluations to help diagnose a patient displaying signs and symptoms of psychosis. Sometimes, a mental illness or a medical condition may be the reason for symptoms.

How Is Psychosis Treated?

The good news is, patients with psychosis can achieve mental and physical stability by adhering to treatment recommended by their health care providers.

Banner Health’s team of medical and mental health care professionals work with you to create a personalized treatment plan based on your goals. Our comprehensive approach includes psychotherapy (talk therapy) as well as medications. Therapy can help you understand your thoughts and behaviors, and learn to manage your condition, while medications help reduce symptoms.

Recovery takes time – don’t rush or push too hard. Lean on your friends, family, doctors and support groups to help you get through treatment. Learning about your condition and knowing what to expect can help you advocate for yourself and reduce anxiety.

Learn more about Banner Health’s behavioral health treatment programs and support and education resources.

EPICenter: Early Psychosis Intervention Center

Located in Tucson, Arizona, Banner Health’s EPICenter is an outpatient community mental health program offering specialized behavioral health and primary care services to treat patients with psychotic illnesses. EPICenter provides:

  • Individual Therapy
  • Group Therapy
  • Family Therapy
  • Psychiatric Care
  • Clinical Evaluations and Assessments
  • Metacognitive Remediation
  • Multi-Family Group
  • Recovery Coach
  • Peer Support
  • Social Club
  • My Own Med App
  • Primary Care Services

Prognosis of Psychosis

Early intervention matters. The longer an illness like psychosis goes untreated, the more it disrupts a patient’s ability to lead a normal life. When a patient gets comprehensive, focused care for their first psychotic episode, studies show a lower risk of suicide and hospitalization, and improved cognition, socialization and quality of life.

The prognosis for patients with psychotic disorders varies person to person. However, many patients are able to lead productive lives and function normally with ongoing treatment.