What is Psychosis?
“When we dream, all sorts of strange things can happen to us, but we still believe that they’re really happening to us. Hearing voices can be like that – a waking dream – but something that is experienced as real.”
“After a psychotic episode, one needs to re-learn how to perceive the world in a normal, ordinary, standard way, just like everybody else.”
“The problem is not so much the voices, as the inability to cope with them.”
“We should let people decide for themselves what helps or not.”
“My eyelids were bulging, my skin was greasy and grainy, my hair like rats’ tails… I looked like everybody’s image of a mental patient – but it was entirely a medication effect.”
“I needed someone who could just be there – non-judgmental, solid, not trying to force me to do this or that, just being with me and helping me to make sense of some very frightening, but also very beautiful and visionary experiences.”
Psychosis is a psychiatric term and it describes experiences such as hearing or seeing things that aren’t there or holding unusual beliefs that other people do not share.
During psychosis, your thoughts may jump around from one thing to another very quickly and so you may find it difficult to voice them in a way that others can understand. For many people these experiences can be highly distressing and disruptive interfering with everyday life, for example, with making friends, having relationships and finding or keeping a job.
Depending on other factors, the diagnosis could be severe depression, schizophrenia, manic depression (bipolar disorder), paranoia, psychotic illness, schizoaffective disorder, or puerperal psychosis (a very severe postnatal depression). These diagnoses are not clear-cut, and people may receive different diagnoses at different times.
One sign of psychosis, as far as Psychiatrists are concerned, is if you lack insight into your own state of mind. They would want to know how you see and understand what is happening and whether you are aware of being different from usual. If you are experiencing psychosis you may find it hard to talk about your experiences and understanding of the world because you feel no words can describe how you feel and think.
A large number of ordinary people have heard voices in the normal course of life, particularly during periods of stress or loss such as bereavement, divorce or separation. Many people also hold beliefs that others might consider unusual. As the experiences do not distress them or don’t return, they are never in contact with mental health services.
There is a view that putting diagnostic labels on someone’s experiences is questionable and not objective. Such labels may even be harmful because the stigma attached, by society, to having mental health problems can worsen their situation and their symptoms.