By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Psychosis is a medical term that is used to describe symptoms of certain mental health problems. The difference between reality and imagination can become blurred in individuals with psychosis, leading to impaired thinking and judgement.
There are two typical features of psychosis:
Hallucinations - This is a feature of psychosis where the person hears, sees or even smells things that are not present in reality. Hearing voices in the head is one of the most common features of psychosis. These are called auditory hallucinations.
Delusions - This is a feature of psychosis where a sufferer believes something that is not true. For example, they believe that someone is planning to hurt or kill them.
Most people with psychosis have a combination of hallucinations and delusions. This can cause changes and alterations in behavior, emotions, thinking and beliefs.
Psychosis is often triggered by other mental health conditions. It may be a part of other diseases such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Psychosis can also be triggered by illnesses such as Parkinson's disease, drug abuse, alcoholism and brain cancer.
Diagnosis and treatment
Psychosis is usually reported to a healthcare professional by a family member, friend or carer of the person who is ill as most patients are, themselves, unaware of their condition. Diagnosis is made by a psychiatrist, through talking tests that are performed to assess the severity of the condition.
Treatment for psychosis usually involves a combination of medication called antipsychotics and talking therapy or counselling. While medication can relieve the symptoms of psychosis, talking therapy can address the underlying cause of the psychosis.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one example of talking therapy that is commonly used to help people with psychosis. Aside from psychological therapy and medication, people with psychosis also require support from people in their family and social circles.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc
Last Updated: Jan 14, 2014