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Psychosis is a type of mental illness where the affected person loses touch with reality. They may lose the ability to discern between what is real and what is fantasy. A psychotic event is often a mental health crisis and must be addressed as early as possible. Continue reading to learn about the three stages of psychosis.
What Is Psychosis?
Psychosis affects about 3.5% of U.S. adults, and of this type of mental illness, about 1% have schizophrenia. The main feature of a psychotic disorder is losing touch with reality. Psychotic disorders feature some common traits, such as:
- Disorganized thinking.
- Delusional thoughts.
- Mental confusion.
- Auditory and visual hallucinations.
Psychosis is a complex mental illness that creeps up slowly. The illness presents in three phases, which are the prodrome, acute, and recovery phases. The sooner in this process that the person receives treatment, the better the outcome will be.
The cause of psychosis is still unknown, but there are some risk factors. These include trauma, certain health conditions, substance abuse, and a history of mental illness.
What Are Psychotic Disorders?
Psychotic disorders are types of mental illness that feature a loss of contact with reality. In most cases, before the psychotic event occurs there will be some warning signs and symptoms of mental illness.
These are the changes in the person’s behavior or demeanor that are present prior to the onset of the psychosis. These signs might include strange behaviors, thoughts, perceptions, and emotions that should not be ignored.
There are many types of psychosis. These include:
- Schizophrenia. Features delusional thoughts, loss of touch with reality, hallucinations, erratic behavior, angry outbursts, and extreme moodiness.
- Schizoaffective disorder. Combines features of schizophrenia with a mood disorder such as bipolar disorder with depressive or manic episodes.
- Schizophreniform disorder. Shares features with schizophrenia, but lasts one-six months and tends to affect teens and young adults.
- Brief psychotic disorder. A short-term disorder that is triggered by a traumatic event. These might be the sudden death of a loved one, a natural disaster, or a major accident. This type of psychosis lasts less than one month.
- Shared psychotic disorder. Involves two people who both believe in the same delusional situation.
- Delusional disorder. Features the person believing falsehoods. They may be convinced that someone is out to harm them, or their spouse is involved in an affair.
- Substance-induced psychotic disorder. Some substances may cause psychotic effects like hallucinations or delusions, sometimes occurring as a withdrawal symptom. These include LSD, opioids, amphetamines, cocaine, benzos, and PCP.
What Are the Signs of Psychosis?
While the specific symptoms of each psychotic disorder will vary, there are some common signs of the onset of an event. These include:
- Persistent feelings of being watched.
- Seeing or hearing things that are not really there.
- Inappropriate behavior.
- Avoidance of social situations.
- A decline in academic or work performance.
- Unusual body positioning or movement.
- Strange or disorganized speech or writing.
- Strange obsessions and fears.
- Irrational or angry behaviors.
- Can’t concentrate.
- Loss of interest in appearance and hygiene.
- Personality changes.
What Are the Three Stages of Psychosis?
A psychotic episode unfolds in three phases. These include:
- Prodrome Phase. The prodrome phase occurs prior to the overt signs of psychosis. During this phase, the person is not themself. They may be displaying changes in their feelings, thoughts, perceptions, and behaviors that people begin to notice. These changes may take months to a year to play out. The changes might include:
- Feeling overwhelmed.
- A sense of disconnection from themselves.
- Trouble screening out sensory distractions.
- Sleep disturbance.
- A desire to be alone.
- Having trouble tracking what they are thinking or what others are talking about.
- Depressed mood state.
- Feeling suspicious.
- Poor personal hygiene.
- Talking to themselves.
- Sensory experiences become more loud or bright.
- Beginning to struggle at work.
- Substance abuse.
- Acute Phase. During the acute phase, the person experiences the classic signs of psychosis. These include delusions, auditory or visual hallucinations, confused thinking, and paranoid behavior. It is during this phase that it becomes apparent the person is struggling with a serious mental health problem.
- Recovery Phase. With treatment and the passage of time, the symptoms will slowly begin to dissipate. This may take weeks to months, or longer.
What Levels of Care Are Available for the Treatment of Psychosis?
Treatment for someone having a psychotic event is usually inpatient or residential care. The inpatient hospital setting offers the highest level of care where acute stabilization services are available. The person will be closely observed and may even be on suicide watch. Once stabilized, the person can transfer to the mental health wing of the hospital for further observation.
The residential setting is another excellent option for the treatment of psychosis. These are smaller, more intimate programs where the person feels comfortable in a home-like setting. Residential programs also offer the full range of care for stages of psychosis.
Treatment For Psychosis
The most promising treatment outcomes occur when the disorder is diagnosed at a fairly early stage. Treatment involves the combination of drug therapy and psychotherapy:
Drug therapy: Medications, such as antipsychotic drugs and antidepressants, can help stabilize the most severe symptoms, such as hallucinations, cognitive issues, and delusions. For some with psychosis, these drugs will be needed to help manage daily living and should be taken for a lifetime.
Psychotherapy: The focus of therapy is to help the person recognize irrational thoughts and behaviors. Once they notice these patterns they are guided toward replacing them with healthy thought-behavior patterns. Talk therapy, group therapy, and family therapy are all central to residential programs. Psychosocial classes teach coping skills that help improve interpersonal relating and daily functioning. Case management helps arrange social services that further support recovery after treatment.
The Treatment Specialist Offers Free Online Guidance for Mental Health Disorders
The Treatment Specialist is an online resource for informative articles on mental health conditions and treatment options for adults, teens, and families. If you or a loved one is exhibiting the early signs and stages of psychosis, reach out to us today at (866) 644-7911.