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Understanding Psychosis

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  1. An Introduction to Psychotic Disorders
    What is Psychosis?
  2. Introduction to Psychosis and Treatment Options
  3. The Signs & Symptoms of Psychosis
    The Signs & Symptoms of Psychosis
  4. Delusions
    3 Topics
  5. Hallucinations
    1 Topic
  6. Reacting to Psychotic Experiences
  7. The Causes of Psychosis
    Exploring the Causes of Psychosis
  8. Diagnosing Psychotic Disorders
    The Diagnosis of Schizophrenia
  9. The Diagnosis of Schizoaffective Disorder
    5 Topics
  10. Treatment for Psychosis
    Treatment Available for Psychosis
    5 Topics
  11. What Are Antipsychotic Drugs?
    8 Topics
  12. The Side Effects of Antipsychotics
    12 Topics
  13. Mental Health Services
    Hospital Admission and Crisis Services
  14. Community Care and Advocacy for Psychosis
  15. Living with Psychosis
    Overcoming Psychotic Experiences
  16. How Can I Help Myself During a Psychotic Episode?
  17. What Can Family & Friends Do to Help?
  18. Challenging Stereotypes and Stigma
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In the previous lessons, we explored how antipsychotic medications are utilised to treat psychosis and delved into the different types of antipsychotics available. Now, it is time to embark on a journey of understanding how to choose the right antipsychotic for each individual. This lesson will provide insights into the various considerations that doctors must take into account when prescribing these powerful medications.

Treating Different Symptoms

Schizophrenia, a complex mental disorder, manifests in diverse ways. Therefore, it is crucial to comprehend how different symptoms necessitate specific antipsychotic treatment approaches. For instance, positive symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions often respond well to both typical and atypical antipsychotics. On the other hand, negative symptoms like social withdrawal and diminished emotional expression may be more effectively managed with atypical antipsychotics as a first-line treatment.

Selecting First-Line Treatment

When it comes to choosing an appropriate first-line treatment for schizophrenia, atypical antipsychotics often take precedence over their typical counterparts due to their improved side effect profiles. Atypical antipsychotics offer a reduced risk of movement disorders like tardive dyskinesia and tend to cause fewer extrapyramidal side effects overall.

Switching Between Antipsychotics

In some cases, individuals may need to switch from one type of antipsychotic medication to another due to various reasons such as inadequate response or intolerable side effects. When undertaking this transition, careful consideration must be given not only to the efficacy but also potential adverse reactions that may arise during cross-tapering between different medication regimens.

Navigating Precautions and Contraindications

Antipsychotic medications are powerful tools that require cautious administration in certain medical conditions. Patients with cardiovascular diseases or a history of seizures should be closely monitored when prescribed these drugs due to potential cardiovascular side effects or lowered seizure threshold. Additionally, caution must be exercised when prescribing antipsychotics to older individuals, as they may be more susceptible to adverse effects such as sedation and orthostatic hypotension.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding:

Expectant and new mothers face unique challenges when it comes to managing their mental health. While the use of antipsychotics during pregnancy and breastfeeding should be approached with caution, it is important to consider the potential risks versus benefits. Close collaboration between healthcare professionals is essential in determining the safest course of action for both mother and baby.

Polypharmacy: The Use of Multiple Antipsychotics:

In certain cases, doctors may resort to polypharmacy – the prescription of multiple antipsychotic medications concurrently – for patients who have not responded adequately to monotherapy. However, this approach should only be considered after careful consideration of the associated risks and benefits. Guidelines exist to ensure that polypharmacy is utilised judiciously, aiming for optimal therapeutic outcomes while minimising adverse reactions.

Drug Interactions

Antipsychotic medications can interact with various other psychiatric medications, potentially leading to unexpected consequences or reduced efficacy. It is crucial for healthcare providers to be aware of these interactions, particularly those involving tricyclic antidepressants, lithium, carbamazepine, anti-seizure medications, anxiety/sleep medications, and alcohol. By understanding these interactions thoroughly, clinicians can make informed decisions when prescribing antipsychotics alongside other psychotropic drugs.


Choosing the right antipsychotic medication requires a comprehensive understanding of an individual’s symptoms and medical history. It entails weighing the efficacy against potential side effects while considering specific circumstances such as pregnancy or concurrent medication use. By navigating these considerations thoughtfully and utilizing evidence-based guidelines effectively, clinicians can optimise treatment outcomes in individuals with psychosis while minimising potential harm. In the next lesson, we will explore another crucial aspect of antipsychotic use: polypharmacy – the use of multiple antipsychotics together – where we will examine its benefits, risks, and guidelines for implementation.

Course Discussion