Psychosis is the term for a collection of symptoms that happen when a person has trouble telling the difference between what’s real and what’s not. This disconnection from reality can happen for several reasons, including many different mental and physical conditions. It’s usually treatable with medication and other techniques.
Psychosis is disconnection from reality. People may have false beliefs or experience things that aren’t real. Psychosis isn’t a condition. It’s a term that describes a collection of symptoms.
Two important types of psychosis include:
Psychosis is a common symptom of many mental health conditions. The America Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) has an entire category devoted to these conditions.
This category, “Schizophrenia Spectrum and Other Psychotic Disorders,” includes the following conditions:
Psychosis can also happen with certain types of mood disorders. Those include:
Psychosis can also happen because of a wide range of other conditions that affect your brain and body. These include:
Psychosis, or symptoms that look very much like it, can also happen under other circumstances. The causes will seem more like triggers in some cases because psychosis develops quickly. In others, it may be a slow process. Some of the circumstances or factors that can cause psychosis include:
The treatment of psychosis depends mainly on the underlying cause. In those cases, treating the underlying cause is often the only treatment needed.
For psychosis that needs direct treatment, there are several approaches.
Psychosis is unpredictable. There are many genetic and lifestyle risk factors, but there’s no way to consistently predict if people will experience these symptoms.
There are some things people can do to make them less likely to develop these symptoms or conditions that involve it.
Psychosis can sometimes happen with severe or even life-threatening conditions like stroke. It’s not a symptom you should try to self-diagnose or treat on your own. A person with psychotic symptoms needs a trained, qualified medical provider to examine them, make the diagnosis and recommend treatment.
A common symptom that happens along with conditions that cause psychosis is anosognosia, which means “lack of insight.” This is more than just denial. It means the person literally can’t recognize or understand the signs or symptoms of their condition.
If your healthcare provider diagnoses you with psychosis, it’s very important to follow their treatment recommendations. That can feel difficult, especially if you don’t think anything is wrong with you.
If you feel this way, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider and loved ones about it. It may feel scary, upsetting or frustrating to discuss it, but it’s still something you should try to do. Building those relationships, as well as communicating with and trusting your healthcare provider and the people who care about you can make a big difference in how you feel and recover.
Schizophrenia and psychosis are two strongly connected words, but they aren’t the same thing.
Neurosis and psychosis are very different conditions, though there’s some confusion because of outdated definitions and word use.
Yes and no. Psychosis is a collection of symptoms that happen with other mental health conditions. Experts used to describe psychosis with different types or terms, but that’s not very common anymore. That said, there are still a few conditions that use “psychosis” or “psychotic” in their name. Examples include:
There are different ways that delusions and hallucinations, the two key psychotic symptoms, can happen.
One way experts split delusions into different categories is by determining whether they’re “bizarre” or “non-bizarre.”
Experts also tend to group delusions into common themes. A few examples include:
Hallucinations can happen in many ways, depending on the involved senses. Sometimes, hallucinations can involve more than one sense at a time. Some examples of hallucinations include:
Hallucinations that involve the senses of smell and taste are possible, but they aren’t very common.
The early warning signs of psychosis usually aren’t easy to spot. They can take different forms depending on the cause of the psychosis itself, and they can sometimes appear days or even weeks before other symptoms.
Some common early warning signs of schizophrenia — a condition that always involves some form of psychosis — include:
Because people with psychosis have trouble telling the difference between what’s real and what isn’t, they often can’t recognize or understand that they have these symptoms or a mental health condition. Commonly, they’ll dismiss or resist suggestions that they get care because they don’t believe anything is wrong with them. That’s why psychosis can be a source of frustration or fear for someone with these symptoms or their loved ones.
If you notice a loved one showing signs of schizophrenia or a related condition, you can try to help them by doing the following:
People who experience psychosis can sometimes behave in ways that put themselves or others at risk. You should go to the nearest emergency room or call 911 (or your local emergency services number) if you have thoughts about harming yourself, including thoughts of suicide or about harming others. If you have thoughts like this, then you can call any of the following:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Psychosis is a word commonly used — often incorrectly — to describe various mental health conditions or issues. The correct use of psychosis refers to a collection of symptoms, including delusions and hallucinations, which happen when a person experiences a disconnection from reality. These symptoms can happen for a wide range of reasons, from mental health conditions to injuries to infections. While these symptoms can be concerning for the person having them or for the people around them, it’s often possible to effectively treat these symptoms. In some cases, these symptoms can stop with treatment of whatever is causing them, or the underlying cause.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/15/2022.
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