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Psychosis is a syndrome or group of symptoms. Someone experiencing an episode of psychosis is having a ‘break’ with reality. Major symptoms of psychosis are hallucinations and delusions. Hallucinations are sensations that are not real, such as hearing voices or sounds that aren’t real. Hearing voices is a common hallucination, but hallucinations can be experiences with any sense—hearing, sight, smell, taste, or touch. Delusions are strong beliefs that can’t possibly be true. Common delusions include the belief that someone is following or monitoring you, or the belief that you have extraordinary powers or abilities. Other symptoms of psychosis include difficulties concentrating, completing tasks, or making decisions. Thoughts may feel ‘jumbled’ or confused. Some people have a hard time following conversations or speaking clearly. Psychosis can even affect the way people move or express their emotions.
Schizophrenia is a mental illness that causes psychosis, but schizophrenia also has other symptoms. And it isn’t the only cause of psychosis. In some cases, other mental illnesses cause psychosis, including depression, bipolar disorder, dementia and borderline personality disorder. Psychosis may come up during times of extreme stress, a major lack of sleep, or trauma. People who are using or withdrawing from certain drugs or medications may experience psychosis. Psychosis may also be caused by a brain injury, neurological problem, or other health problem. So while psychosis can be a part of schizophrenia, it can be caused by many other things too.
Psychosis and schizophrenia are treatable. It’s important to seek help as soon as possible.
Where can I learn more?
- Psychosis info sheet
- Schizophrenia info sheet
- BC Schizophrenia Society, a provincial organization that supports families who are dealing with schizophrenia and other serious mental illnesses
- Early Psychosis Intervention programs (generally for those under 30 who experience a first episode of psychosis)
About the author
The Canadian Mental Health Association promotes the mental health of all and supports the resilience and recovery of people experiencing a mental illness through public education, community-based research, advocacy, and direct services. Visit www.cmha.bc.ca.