What is Psychosis?
Psychosis refers to a loss of contact with reality. When
people can't tell the difference between what is real and what is not, it is
called a psychotic episode. A first episode of psychosis is often very
frightening, confusing and distressing, particularly because it is an
About three out of every 100 people will have a psychotic
episode in their lifetime. Psychosis occurs in men and women and across all
cultures and socioeconomic groups.
Psychosis usually first appears in a person's late teens or
early 20s. Psychotic illnesses seem to affect women at a later age than men,
when women may be farther along in their social and work lives. On the whole,
women respond better than men to most treatments.
However, there are times when the risk of relapse for women
is greater. These times are before their period is due, after childbirth and
around menopause. This suggests that women's hormones may in some way affect
A number of mental illnesses can include psychosis as a
Schizophrenia: A person has some psychotic symptoms for at
least six months, with a significant decline in the ability to function.
Schizophreniform disorder: A person has some psychotic symptoms
for less than six months.
Bipolar disorder: With this type of illness, the symptoms of
psychosis relate more to mood disturbance than to thought disturbance.
Schizoaffective disorder: A person will have symptoms of
schizophrenia and symptoms of a mood disturbance, either at the same time or
alternating over time.
Depression with psychotic features: A person has severe
depression and symptoms of psychosis without the mania associated with bipolar
Drug-induced psychosis: The use of drugs such as marijuana,
cocaine, LSD, amphetamines and alcohol can sometimes cause psychotic symptoms.
Organic psychosis: Symptoms of psychosis may appear as a
result of a physical illness or a head injury.
Brief psychotic disorder: This illness usually lasts less
than a month. It is usually triggered by a major stress in the person's life,
such as a death in the family.
Delusional disorder: This type of psychosis consists of very
strong, fixed beliefs in things that are not true.
Posttraumatic stress disorder: This usually lasts more than
a month, and happens after a person has seen or experienced a very traumatic
event. The person may have flashbacks or hallucinate.