Psychosis

The term Psychosis refers to an abnormal condition of the mind. It is a generic psychiatric term for a mental state often described as involving a "loss of contact with reality". Psychosis describes a mental state during which hallucinations, delusions, and impaired insight may occur. The term psychosis is very broad and can be apparent in several mental illnesses including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder or in cases of physical brain damage or drug use.

Often incorrectly characterized in many horror movies, books or stories in the media; psychosis has become accepted by many people as a frightening illness. These sources imply that psychosis manifests as maniacal mayhem or multiple personalities in the unfortunate people who suffer from this illness. In reality, though, in most cases, it is the person experiencing the illness one who is truly living in fear. They do not understand what is going on with their mind, and why everyone is acting strange or reacting badly to everything they say or do. Hallucinations, delusions or impaired insight have taken over without them recognizing it. They no longer have control over their own mind.

Hallucinations, delusions, and impaired insight - what do these look like?  They may look like severe paranoia, or what appear to you to be totally illogical behavior or ideas. They may look like risk taking or silly spending habits, or maybe they look just like someone having a conversation with themselves or with some inanimate object. Hallucinations can take many forms, some of which are totally harmless, however they can in some cases be very frightening and even lead to violence or self-harm.

Hallucinations can be audible, visual or tactile (touch, taste, smell). They can be harsh demeaning voices, they can be command voices telling the person to harm themselves, or they can be a cacophony of multiple voices. In fact from what I understand they can take many forms. Hallucinations can cause the person experiencing them confusion, fear, and discomfort.

It is much the same for delusions, there are different presentations - they can be delusions of grandeur, delusions that they are a famous person from history, delusions that they are being spied upon by the police or aliens etc..

A delusion is an unshakable belief in something untrue. These irrational beliefs defy normal reasoning and remain firm even when overwhelming proof is presented to dispute them.

So how do you deal with these difficult symptoms? To repeat our note from the home page:

At this website we don't offer a diagnosis or medical advice, we leave that to the professionals. What we do offer is expert guidance from real people intimately involved with Mental Illness.

Our guidance has evolved over many years as we used trial and error along with the best medical advice that we could find. We needed to determine what strategies worked for us in our lives, as we experienced mental illness through our loved ones. We realize that all individual situations are different, so there is not one cookie cutter solution. There are, though, techniques, strategies, and specific solutions which helped us and may help you.

First and foremost I believe compliance with antipsychotic medication is the cornerstone of successful treatment of psychosis.

We then found that it really all starts with you - educating yourself about mental illness - learning that your loved one is not the illness and that they have little or no control over the illness.

We disciplined ourselves to be patient and not to sweat the small stuff. (It is amazing when you stop and think how many of the things we get upset, about are minor, unimportant or inconsequential.)

We learned that several studies show that "Support" is a huge factor in recovery. Accordingly, the more that you learn and understand about your loved one's illness then the more impact your support will have, and the less stress you will suffer yourself.

We recognized that the behavior was caused by the illness and not through conscious thoughts or actions from our child.

We saw that our children were suffering worse than we were and they needed our help.

Though we went through periods of turmoil, it became easy to empathize when we were able to put ourselves in our children's shoes and see the fear and confusion. For me, the magic moment of understanding was when I visited my 15-year-old on the adult psych unit and saw her looking terribly lost and scared. I later found out that she had been hiding her symptoms for a long time because she thought if anyone found out she was hearing voices, she would be locked in a padded cell for the rest of her life.