Psychosis Hotline

The Psychosis Hotline Is Here to Help

Mental illnesses can be extremely difficult to manage. Depending on the type of disorder, you may require extensive treatment and assistance in order to lead a happy life. Thankfully, mental illnesses are much more common than most people understand. As many as 1 in 5 Americans actively suffers from a mental illness.

There are many different types of mental illnesses. One such example is psychosis, which is something experienced by individuals who lose touch with reality. Thankfully, with treatment, those who have a psychotic episode can still lead a happy life and overcome their difficulties. Furthermore, there are many ways that people can find the help they need, including by calling the National Mental Health Hotline at 866-903-3787.

What Is Psychosis?

Psychosis is not exactly a disorder in and of itself. Instead, it’s more a common symptom of certain disorders, such as schizophrenia. It impacts the way that your brain inputs information. When that occurs, things can happen that make you disconnected from the events of the real world. It comes with a variety of related symptoms. These include:

• Auditory or visual hallucinations, meaning that you see or hear things that aren’t really there.

• Delusions, which are beliefs about things occurring or personal attributes that aren’t really connected to reality. This can include the idea that outside forces are controlling events or that you have some sort of elevated status in society that doesn’t correspond to reality.

• Disorganized thinking, meaning that you’re incapable of processing or communicating rational thought.

There are often warning signs that people are likely to experience a psychotic episode at some point in their life. These signs include:

• A lack of self-care or hygiene
• A severe drop in grades in school or performance at work
• Increased signs of paranoia
• A total lack of emotional affect or disproportionate emotional response to certain situations
• A withdrawal from social groups, family, or friends
• An inability to see that they’re suffering from a serious medical or mental health issue

Many disorders are considered to be “psychotic disorders” because they cause a person to lose touch with reality. As noted, schizophrenia is the most common of these, but they also may include Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or bipolar disorder.

What Causes a Psychotic Episode?

Like most mental illnesses, a psychotic episode doesn’t really come from one set place. Indeed, a variety of causes can lead to a psychotic episode. These include events that are both genetic and environmental in nature.

Impact of Genetics

There are clear genetic connections when it comes to psychotic disorders. Those who have a family member with schizophrenia are more likely to develop the disease themselves, although the exact pattern of this inheritance – including what causes the disease to be exhibited – is not completely understood.

There is also specific evidence to indicate that small mutations in a few genes may make someone more likely to experience psychotic symptoms or psychotic disorders, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. A 2009 study specifically named mutations in certain genes as being the culprit for genetic mutations, including the ZNF804A, CACNA1C, and ANK3. Mutations to these genes make the expression of psychotic symptoms more likely, while also making someone more likely to suffer from bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Additional studies have urged that practitioners take these genetic mutations into account when discussing or reviewing psychotic symptoms.

Physical Trauma

Psychosis can occur as a result of a variety of physical traumas. Two, in particular, stand out.

• The first is a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) that damages the actual structure of your brain. As noted by many studies, a traumatic brain injury can have many negative mental health impacts, damaging mood, cognition, sleep, and more. Physical damage to certain areas of the brain, such as the frontal lobes, can result in a degradation of the ability to regulate mood and remain connected to reality. All of this can result in major hallucinations, delusions, and other psychotic symptoms. According to this research, the most likely psychotic symptoms tend to be expressed as delusions or hallucinations after a traumatic brain injury.

• There are also many studies that have found the connection between certain types of substance abuse and psychosis. These studies have noted that repeated abuse of substances, such as certain types of drugs or alcohol, can result in psychotic episodes. Abuse of certain substances – including alcohol, marijuana, or LSD – has been correlated with an increased likelihood to display psychotic behaviors.

Impact of Environmental Issues or Trauma

While it’s clear that genetics play a role in the expression of psychotic episodes, a variety of environmental issues can also lead to psychotic incidents.

• A maldeveloped fetus – including a pregnant woman receiving poor prenatal care – can lead to psychosis in the child at a later date. According to studies, birth weight was found to be related to schizophrenia, and birth weight is often an indicator of prenatal care.

• Traumatic experiences in childhood – otherwise known as adverse childhood events (ACEs) – can also lead to psychosis. Studies have explicitly linked early childhood exposure to ACEs with psychotic behavior in adults.

• Some medications – Lastly, some medications can induce psychosis in people. These medications include Combivir and abacavir. Thankfully, cessation of these medications will usually stop the exhibition of psychotic symptoms.

Psychosis and Co-Occurring Disorders

As noted above, there’s a strong connection between schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and the exhibition of psychotic symptoms. Indeed, psychotic behavior is among the most common symptoms expressed when it comes to schizophrenia. It’s also common – albeit less common – with bipolar disorder.

There also seems to be a real overlap between psychosis and substance use disorders. According to one study of people who were exhibiting signs of psychosis, 74% of all people who suffered from a psychotic break had also had a substance use disorder at some point in their lives, with 62% of the same group actively suffering from such a disorder. Studies also show that those with schizophrenia are 4.6 times more likely to have a substance use disorder than the rest of the population.

The existence of psychosis and other disorders, such as substance use disorder, can make the treatment of psychotic symptoms more difficult but not impossible. Further complicating matters is the existence of anosognosia, which is a lack of awareness about what you’re suffering from. The existence of anosognosia can make it much harder to convince people to seek the treatment they need.

Treatment

Despite the serious nature of psychotic episodes, it’s important to recognize that there are many reasons to be hopeful if you or someone you love experiences one of these episodes, as evidence indicates that people who suffer from psychosis can recover and lead happy lives.

Medication

Thankfully, a variety of medications are available to treat psychosis symptoms. These drugs are designed for that explicit purpose and are called antipsychotics.

Antipsychotics work by altering brain chemicals that are involved in the production and creation of hallucinations and delusions, such as dopamine and serotonin. Examples include:

• Thorazine
• Mellaril
• Haldol
• Abilify
• Saphris

In some cases, tranquilizers may be prescribed for individuals who are experiencing psychotic symptoms. These tranquilizers will not resolve the psychosis but may ease the anxiety and fear felt by individuals experiencing a psychotic episode. Tranquilizers may make symptoms more manageable. They may also reduce aggressive tendencies.

Hospitalization

In some cases, those experiencing psychosis may become a danger to themselves or others as a result of their inability to think clearly. In these instances, they may need to be hospitalized for a short or extended period of time, even if that hospitalization occurs against their will.

There are many types of hospitalization programs for individuals who are experiencing psychotic episodes. In some cases, they may involve partial hospitalization, in which the client will stay at a facility for a set period of time but return home at the end of the day. In more serious cases, clients may stay at a residential facility for a period of time, during which they can be constantly observed, medicated, and given access to the therapy that can help them recover.

Therapy

Therapy is a viable option for psychosis, as it can help clients manage their emotions and feelings while also recognizing when a delusion or hallucination is occurring. Examples of therapy include:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which helps individuals manage thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

Psychoeducation, which involves systematically teaching people about their illness so they can be better aware of it. Clients can also be alerted to the various symptoms and signs that come with a medical issue. This enables them to improve their recognition of the illness and ability to receive treatment.

Family Therapy, which can help clients work with their family to better recognize and treat their illness.

Alternative Therapies

Medication and therapy are typically considered more traditional forms of addressing psychotic symptoms, but ongoing research has identified many other potential ways of treating psychosis when combined with these forms of therapy. For example, a 2018 review examined evidence on 110 other trials and found evidence to support additional therapies like ginkgo biloba and Vitamin B6. None of these therapies should be tried without first speaking with a doctor, but it does appear that they may be helpful in addressing psychotic symptoms.

The final takeaway about psychotic episodes is this: While they can be dangerous, there’s no reason to lose hope. Like all mental illnesses, psychosis can be treated with access to the appropriate resources. If you aren’t sure who to call or where to get help, reach out to the National Mental Health Hotline at 866-903-3787. We have professionals who can help you or your loved ones find the help that you need.