Updated: Oct 9
Psychosis is a condition whereby a person's ability to determine what is real has been compromised. People who suffer with psychotic episodes can often see frightening things that don't exist, such as shadow creatures (hallucinations). They may also experience delusions/paranoia, whereby they feel like they are being watched or recorded (e.g. cameras in the ceilings), or they have false beliefs that random events in society are directly related to them (known as ideas of reference).
While it is unclear exactly how psychosis develops, there are several factors that can increase the likelihood of experiencing a psychotic episode. For example, trauma can increase a person's chances of developing psychosis, along with substance use in adolescences and early adulthood (e.g. weed usage). There is also a genetic component to psychosis, so if there is a member of a family who has schizophrenia, other family members may be more likely to develop psychosis.
If you are experiencing symptoms of psychosis, there are several steps you can take:
1) The most important thing to do if you or a family member experiences a psychotic episode is to get assessed at a psychosis clinic. These types of clinics are usually associated with hospitals and will involve an assessment by a nurse or psychiatrist and then a plan will be developed to help support you. One of the most important elements of being seen in a psychosis clinic will be to have access to antipsychotic medication, such as abilify. While not everyone responds to these medications, they are generally viewed as the first line of treatment for psychosis.
2) You will also want to seek the support of a therapist who is trained in psychosis. Psychosis can be a really disruptive illness to have and you will want to have as much support around you as possible. A therapist can help you learn strategies for managing your delusions, and teach you ways of minimizing the distress of hallucinations. A therapist can also help you process your psychotic episode, as many people finds these experiences traumatic and frightening. Having someone who is trained in treating trauma will be invaluable to you.
3) Psychotic episodes tend to happen more frequently during times of life transition (e.g. starting school, breakups etc), and when experiencing a lot of stress. It will be really important for you to have or develop a regular self-care routine to help you manage these stressful times. It is important to remember that you will get more benefit from self-care if you do it regularly, rather than just when your life is really stressful. You could start with a few minutes of meditation a day, or going for a walk after lunch. Baths in the evening, journaling, exercise, listening to soothing music, colouring, playing an instrument and so on, can help you feel calmer and more grounded.
4) In addition to regular self-care, you will want to prioritize a healthy sleep routine, as poor sleep can trigger psychotic episodes in people with psychosis. A healthy sleep routine means no screens for ideally two hours before bed, making sure not to engage in stimulating activities such as video games or watching intense movies, along with sticking to the same bedtime each night.
5) Lastly, avoiding intoxicating substances, primarily weed, will help minimize the risk of developing psychosis or making it worse. If you are struggling with your substance usage and you have had a psychotic episode, you should reach out to a therapist who can help you to abstain. A good place to find a therapist is Psychology today.There are also support groups available, such as marijuana anonymous or smart recovery.
Here are a few books that can help: