Psychosis, also known as a psychotic episode, is a period where people experience reality differently to others. Some people see and hear things or hallucinate, where others may experience delusions such as believing something to be true when it’s not. Approximately 3% of the population will experience psychosis at some point in their lives.

There have been examples of people experiencing psychosis all the way back to 1500 BCE as it was referenced in the Ancient Egyptian medical text ‘The Ebers Papyrus’.

One thing that people may not know about psychosis is that it’s not a condition but an experience. Sometimes people can experience psychosis because of a severe lack of sleep or as a side effect from some medications and drugs. Stress and trauma can also be a catalyst for psychosis. Other times, psychosis can occur because of a condition, such as:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Schizoaffective Disorder
  • Paranoid Personality Disorder
  • Postpartum Psychosis (after someone has given birth)
  • Delusional Disorder
  • Brain tumour
  • Brain diseases such as Parkinson’s or Dementia

Some people experience psychosis throughout their lives while others only experience it once or twice. If someone experiences psychosis only for a brief period such as less than a month, a Doctor may offer a diagnosis of ‘brief psychotic disorder’.

Experiencing psychosis can cause the person distress and make them confused. There is a misconception that people in a psychotic episode are dangerous, but they are actually more likely to be the victim of violence than actually being violent to others. Being in psychosis can be dangerous for the person though, as they may be distracted from their surroundings, for example, they may not see or hear the traffic when going to cross a road.

There is a stigma around psychosis which has been fuelled by negative representations in the media. Typically, people show psychosis as being the same as psychopathy, but they are two very separate things that don’t really overlap. Psychopathy is a spectrum disorder that can affect people differently depending on the severity. It is usually characterised by a difficulty empathising with others and being charming to reach their desired outcome. You can read more about psychopathy here.

Another myth about psychosis is that it’s the same as having Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). DID used to be known by the term ‘split personality disorder’, which is now considered outdated. People who have DID may enter into a similar dissociative state where they can disconnect from reality for a period, but psychosis is a different experience and is not a condition.

One of the most harmful myths about psychosis is that people who experience it can’t lead normal, healthy lives. There are lots of support options and treatments nowadays which can help people understand and better manage their experience of psychosis. This includes Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), art therapy, anti-psychotic medications, and more. What works best is dependent on each person’s experiences with psychosis and seeing them as an individual, rather than ‘one size fits all’.

With such a large amount of people experiencing psychosis in the UK and across the world, it’s important to learn more about it and understand that it doesn’t equal violence or criminal behaviour. By learning more, we hope to be able to be able to further understand psychosis and better support and empower people who experience it without the negative perceptions attached.

To read more about psychosis and find further support, please click on the links below: