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First Episode Psychosis: An Information Guide Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health

The Symptoms of Psychosis

First Episode Psychosis: An Information Guide

Psychosis can come on suddenly or can develop very gradually. There may be early warning signs, such as social withdrawal, or feeling suspicious, anxious, tense, irritable or depressed. Changes in concentration, memory and thinking may occur as well as changes in appetite, energy level and patterns of sleep. Symptoms of psychosis can vary from person to person and may change over time. Some common symptoms are described below.

Changes in thinking patterns
People experiencing psychosis may have changes in their thinking patterns. For example, they may have difficulty when they try to concentrate, follow a conversation or remember things. Thoughts may become jumbled, or they may not connect in a way that makes sense.

Unusual or false beliefs
People experiencing a psychotic episode often develop false beliefs called delusions. A person may be truly convinced of a belief that is not shared by others, and even the most logical argument cannot change his or her mind. Examples of such beliefs include believing that one is being followed by others, or being monitored by cameras, or believing one’s thoughts are being controlled by an outside force.

Changes in perception
During psychosis, people may hear, see, smell, taste or feel something that is not actually there. For example, they may hear voices or noises that no one else hears, see things that are not there, or experience unusual physical sensations. These changes in perception are called hallucinations.

Changes in feeling and mood
Mood swings are often experienced during a psychotic episode. A person may feel unusually excited, depressed or anxious. He or she may also feel very little emotion or show less emotion to others who are around.

Changes in behaviour
People experiencing a psychotic episode may behave differently from how they usually do. Often the changes in behaviour are associated with the symptoms described above. People may laugh at inappropriate times or become upset for no apparent reason. They may spend more time alone or seem less interested in friends, school or work. The symptoms of the illness may also disrupt sleeping and eating patterns. For example, people may sleep less because they are preoccupied, or they may not eat for fear their food has been poisoned.

Some people experiencing a psychotic episode may feel very depressed, and think that life is not worth living. People experiencing suicidal thoughts may attempt to hurt themselves. Suicidal thoughts should always be discussed with a health professional/therapist. Family members may need support and assistance to cope effectively in such situations. In an urgent situation, the person should be taken to the emergency department of the closest hospital to receive treatment.

Symptoms of psychosis get better with treatment.

In First Episode Psychosis: An Information Guide

  1. What is psychosis?
  2. The symptoms of psychosis
  3. The causes of psychosis
  4. The different types of psychosis
  5. Treatments for psychosis
  6. Family involvement — issues and concerns
  7. The process of recovery
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