Psychosis is a complicated illness and very misunderstood.
‘a mental health problem that causes people to perceive or interpret things different from those around them’ www.nhs.uk/conditions/psychosis.
I have been wary of discussing the more ‘frightening’ mental health conditions because of the negative connotations most people have. However, I also think knowledge is key and sharing knowledge can only lead to good.
Psychosis and schizophrenia can be highly debilitating illnesses and are often represented as ‘dangerous’. Hollywood doesn’t help this, with ‘American Psycho’, ‘Psycho bitch’ terminology. It means that the illness is very misunderstood. Psychosis/Schizophrenia can often be an illness that needs a lot of courage and support from health professionals as well as family and friends.
What I have written is what I look out for when I meet someone and think they might have psychosis – and believe me – Psychosis could happen to anyone.
Possible Scenario –
Imagine, you are working really hard, extra hours, drinking loads of coffee, not sleeping much. You’re drinking alcohol most evenings and you feel overwhelmed. You decide that you want to smoke a joint with your mate. That same night something terrible happens like you are assaulted or there is a car accident in front of you. The build up of all of these events can lead to your brain not quite working in the way it should as you are over stimulated. Your dopamine levels (neurotransmitter in your brain chemistry) are all over the shop and you can’t control this neurotransmitter.
Voices – You might start to experience voices – which are not the same as hearing your own ‘should I really do that?’ inner voice. The voices might be friendly they might be familiar. Or they might be not very nice and reflect some of your own thoughts ‘I’m not good enough’, ‘you should do better’.
Hallucinations – You might see things in the room that no one else can. The walls might move in a way that you are sure that they shouldn’t. A common symptom is talking to a religious figure as you believe they are with you in person.
Messages – You may think the TV is talking to you, making you perform certain actions. You may think the radio is giving you signals. It may feel that CCTV is following you (which it kind of is these days). Your mind is telling you thatYou are worried that the MI5 are after you.
Sensations (tactile hallucinations) – You may have sensations in your body that are unusual – you may feel bugs on your skin, tickling the back of your neck all the time, feel like someone is touching you when they are not.
You may get these experiences when taking recreational drugs – it’s time to reevaluate if this is the case…
What do you do –
If any of the above (one or a combination of these things is happening to you, or to a friend, they should see their GP. If things are really out of hand, this would be an emergency and you should go to A&E).
Your GP (or A&E) will likely refer you to see a psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse (like me) who will ask you questions – similar to what I’ve just written about. If the Psychiatrist/nurse knows what your symptoms are, they can think about what you need much easier than if you don’t share the full story.
Unfortunately, if Psychosis has been going on for days/weeks/months, your sense of paranoia will likely be high and you might be unwilling to share your experience. However, if you’re reading this and you are worried about someone – go with them to see the GP! Help share their story if they cannot. This will help them get the support they need.
Misconceptions – the word ‘Psycho’ is used a lot in today’s society. This means that people misunderstand the diagnosis of Psychosis. It really annoys me that people use the word Psycho because actually it means nothing on its own really. People with Psychosis can return to normal life. If you had the flu and were bed ridden, your body would need time to recover and reset itself in the same way. People with Psychosis can recover and get back to normal life. If you think you’re friend is ‘joking’ about seeing things or hearing things – sorry to say – it’s not funny….have a serious conversation with your buddy – they need to see a Doctor!
Antipsychotic medication helps redistribute your dopamine. This is currently understood to be how to manage psychotic symptoms. Antipsychotics have a sedation effect, so they will help you sleep and recover. The treatment for psychosis also has a number of side effects, which are unpleasant. However if you have experienced a psychotic episode that goes away, you may not need to take medication forever. You may need a period of time to restabilise get back on track.
Support from family and friends is crucial in the recovery process. A whole lot of trial and error with what works for each person individually.
Get in touch if you need advice on where to get help.
Tips on how to manage to come in a follow up blog.