What are the early warning signs of psychosis?
Psychosis happens over a period of time and describes when someone starts to lose contact with reality. It is a condition that affects the mind and alters a person’s perception of reality. If you are experiencing a psychotic episode, it means that you have lost your attachment to reality and may find it difficult to know what’s real and what isn’t.
It may not always be easy to identify the early warning signs of psychosis. However, if you know what to look for, you may be able to treat it before it worsens.
Psychosis can happen in children and adults. Sometimes, it may develop during teenage years, and there are different signs to look for in children and young adults. Some symptoms can last less than an hour and some may persist for months.
It’s important to monitor yourself or someone you suspect is developing psychosis so you can get the proper mental health treatment.
Signs and symptoms of early psychosis
Early psychosis symptoms can be gradual or have a sudden onset. Psychosis is a symptom of a greater mental health condition. Monitoring your symptoms and understanding the signs of psychosis may help you be more aware of oncoming episodes and get the treatment you need.
Early psychosis symptoms include:
Changes in thinking
Before you are aware you are experiencing psychosis, your thoughts might race through your mind or come very slowly. You may get confused and your thoughts might get jumbled in your mind. If someone you know has psychosis, you may notice their sentences not being coherent or that they are sharing strange ideas.
Changes in behavior
As psychosis develops, you may start to feel suspicious or like everyone is watching you. You may be paranoid and feel anxious or worried. These feelings may cause you increased stress and can affect your eating and sleeping habits.
Changes in feeling and perception
Changed perceptions may make you confused about what’s real and what’s imaginary. You may start to have strange or intense beliefs about people and the world. You could start perceiving people’s intentions differently than they are, which could also lead to paranoia about them.
As your symptoms become more severe, you could start hearing voices in your head. You may hear them tell you things and push you to take certain actions. Seeing things that aren’t there is also a part of hallucinations. In addition, you could have odd sensory experiences.
Delusions make you think that you have special powers or abilities. You may think someone is following you and you may start to become distrustful of everyone around you, including your loved ones. These feelings will strengthen over time, making it harder for you to accept any other logic.
Causes of early psychosis
There is more than one cause of psychosis, and you may have experienced one or more of them. Hormonal changes can make children and teens more susceptible to early psychotic episodes. Some causes include:
If you have experienced a traumatic event, like a death, war, or sexual assault, you could be more susceptible to psychosis. Depending on your age and the type of trauma, you may be more likely to get psychosis.
Genetics can play a big part in developing psychosis, although it does not guarantee that you will have it. That said, if you have a close loved one — like your brother, sister, mother, or father — who has psychosis or a mental health disorder, you may be at risk.
Mental health conditions
Traumatic brain injuries increase your risk for psychosis. An episode can happen months or even years after the event.
Brain diseasesAlzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s, or brain tumors or strokes can lead to psychosis.
Diagnosing early psychosis
Early intervention is crucial to preventing psychosis from worsening and affecting your quality of life. If you are experiencing symptoms or a loved one has shown concern, you should see a doctor. A qualified psychotherapist can diagnose you and start you on the right treatment plan.
Treatments for early psychosis
Early psychosis is easier to treat if you get help at the right time. Your psychotherapist will determine a treatment plan to get to the root cause.
Talk therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) have been successful in treating psychosis. They may also involve family interventions. Social support is a part of this process, because having a good foundation can help you stay connected with reality.
There are medications that can help ease the symptoms of psychosis. An antipsychotic medicine will help you find relief. Some antipsychotics may need to be taken long-term, but you may also gradually reduce your dosage and stop taking them if you show improvement.
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BMJ: "Managing the acute psychotic episode."
CEDAR: "Early Signs of Psychosis."
National Alliance on Mental Illness: "Psychosis."
National Institute of Mental Health: "Fact Sheet: Early Warning Signs of Psychosis."
National Institute of Mental Health: "What is Psychosis?"
National Health Services: "Psychosis: Overview."
UC San Diego Health: "Recognizing Early Psychosis."
Washington State Health Care Authority: "Early signs of psychosis."