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Psychosis: Symptoms and Treatment

Psychosis

Psychosis is a condition in which an individual shows behavior and judgment that no longer conforms to what is real. Psychosis is not a condition in its own right but is an acute mental health problem which is triggered by other conditions.

It can be caused by ongoing disorders such as schizophrenia, depression or bipolar disorder or sometimes by short term conditions, for example stress, substance abuse or a traumatic event. Sometimes other diagnosed illnesses such as lupus, malaria or Lyme disease may trigger an episode. There are some medicines that have also been identified as a cause of the condition.

Studies have shown that around 3% of people will suffer at least one psychotic episode in the course of their lives so it is a surprisingly common problem.

Psychosis Symptoms

People suffering from psychosis will present with different symptoms but there are four main signs.

Confused and disturbed thoughts: One of the primary signs that a patient is suffering from a psychotic episode is that their thought patterns will appear to be confused or disturbed. This may be noticeable in their speech which could be more frequent or faster than normal. Their conversation may appear to be disjointed with repeated changes of direction in the nature of the discussion, sometimes even mid-sentence. It is possible that unexpected pauses may also occur during dialogue as they forget their train of thought.

Hallucinations: Another of the major psychosis symptoms are hallucinations suffered by the patient. These may affect any of the five senses. For example patients with psychosis symptoms will often claim to see people or things that are not actually present, hear voices or sounds which tend to be of an unpleasant nature, smell unusual odors, think they are being touched when in fact they are not or even complain of a strange taste in their mouths.

Delusions: If a person has psychosis symptoms they may find that they are suffering from delusions. This means that they are convinced that something is true even though it is impossible or highly unlikely. It is common for sufferers to be paranoid that someone or something intends to do them harm or possibly to think that they have special powers or abilities.

It is usual that a patient with psychosis symptoms has no idea that they are suffering from a mental condition and in fact believes that they are completely normal. Although they may identify mental conditions in other patients they are unable to see that their own behavior is delusional.

A different type of psychosis is puerperal psychosis (or postpartum psychosis) which affects 1 in 1000 postnatal women. It is most likely to occur in the first few weeks after giving birth and is most common in women who are already suffering from a mental illness. Any or all of the usual psychosis symptoms may present themselves in these cases as well as mania and depression. Because postnatal psychosis is a serious condition it is vital that women who develop the condition are treated as a medical emergency.

Patients suffering from psychosis are more likely to hurt themselves than other people however the condition is usually short term and can be treated effectively using medications and psychological therapy. If someone is suspected of suffering from psychosis they should be referred for medical help straight away as if left untreated they may eventually self-harm.

Psychosis Treatment

The major forms of psychotic treatments include pharmacological treatments, psychosocial activities and education. All these may be done simultaneously.

Anti psychotic medications are administered to patients to restore the normal function of the areas of the brain that controls cognitive activities. Some of these improve memory, calms a person, and prevents the feeling of depression. These may have side effects, so medications should be taken with the prescription of a medical doctor. This is especially important if the patients is also taking other medications for other health conditions.

Psychosocial activities include therapies to train the individual’s social skills, cognitive behavioral therapy and stress reduction. This helps individuals have a more normal environment and they are able to apply social skills in a way that they are able to control their behavior. Therapies are also done where in patients are encouraged to adjust and control their behavior, particularly their temper or excitement, to avoid triggering any reactions that may label the person as a psychotic.

Education of the patient and his family members is also important. This is where the psychotic condition is explained so the patient and his family will understand and probably find the root cause of such behavior, and work from there to help avoid any more conflict or any trigger of the psychotic behavior. It is also a venue to know the treatments and therapies available.

How to Treat Psychosis at Home

Treatment of psychosis may be done at home with the help of family members and mental health care personnel. Once a patient has been assessed by a doctor and is given proper medication, symptoms may still manifest but can be controlled by ensuring that the patient is being treated in the most normal way possible. It is important for at least one family member or a trusted mental health care personnel to be the patient’s confidant. This way, the patient’s behavior is being monitored, and corresponding approach to certain behaviors is applied.

As part of psychosis treatment, when the patient is feeling well and has no manifestations of psychotic behavior, talk with him and find out means to manage the symptoms. It is good to know on what areas the patient needs help, and that he himself acknowledges that he needs help and that there is an assurance that he is getting it.

It is also important to identify the triggers of the patient’s psychoses. It may vary, from crowded places to hearing a certain word or sound. In this case, once the stressors and triggers are identified, it should be worked out that these are avoided or minimized. Distractions such as physical activities, music, relaxation and a routine may be an effective part of the psychosis treatment.

The schizophrenic patient should be aware of his condition and avoid reasoning with the voices he hears in his head. This only adds to the stress and may worsen the condition. The family member or health care professional should handle the hallucinations objectively, and not emotionally, since it is part of the symptoms. Regular intake of medications is important for the hallucinations to stop.

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