A person experiencing psychosis will find it hard to distinguish between reality and their imagination, which can make it hard to function on a day to day basis. Psychosis is most commonly associated with conditions such as schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder (manic depression) but can also be a result of other conditions such as Parkinson’s disease or from drug and alcohol use. Apart from psychosis with a physical cause (i.e. drugs, alcohol or medical conditions), it is thought that distressing events in life are the underlying cause of psychosis. Therefore to successfully treat psychosis, it is important to find the root cause, not just treat the symptoms.
Symptoms of psychosis
People with psychosis experience symptoms that fall into two main categories:
Hallucinations are perceptions of things that are not there and may seem very real to those experiencing them. Hearing voices, either from outside oneself or from within, is one of the most common types of hallucination. Hallucinations also include seeing things such as colours, people or objects, as well as feeling, smelling and tasting things which are not there.
Delusions are held beliefs that are obviously untrue or highly unlikely and therefore often seen as bizarre by others. Delusions are commonly placed into the following categories:
Paranoid delusions: These are beliefs which bring up feelings of paranoia. People may believe that a person or organisation is spying on them and planning to harm of kill them. Other common paranoid delusions include believing you are being followed or that your thoughts are being read by others. Such delusions can be extremely upsetting for those experiencing them and may cause them to behave in ways that seem odd to those around them.
Delusions of grandeur: People with such delusions believe themselves to have exceptional powers. For example, they may feel they can heal people or believe themselves to be a specific person, such as King or Queen of a country or a well-known person.
Delusions of reference: These are beliefs that important meanings or messages are embedded into unrelated events. For example, sufferers may believe that messages for or about them are being communicated through television or radio programmes.
Dealing with psychotic experiences at home
Distraction techniques: If you are experiencing such thoughts or perceptions, you may struggle to get on with things as the thoughts keep interrupting. Distraction techniques can be especially helpful in such circumstances – particularly for people who hear voices. Listening to music (with headphones), doing housework, walking, watching a film or talking to someone can provide useful distractions and allow you to concentrate on something other than the voices or beliefs that may be all consuming otherwise.
Relaxation techniques: Feeling persecuted can be extremely stressful and draining, which can then give rise to more negative voices or stronger feelings of paranoia. Breathing techniques can help you relax and will focus your mind as well.
Learn about the voices: It may seem strange, but if you experience voices, learning about them may help you feel more in control. Do you recognise them? – sometimes the voices are someone you know, but often this is not the case. Think about what the voice is saying and whether this reminds you of anyone – it could be a school bully or a relative. It is important to recognise that the voices you hear will carry a meaning for you that relates to your life, they are not simply a symptom of your illness. Once you have thought about the voices, you may be able to think about their origins, which may take you closer to the underlying issues that have caused your psychosis.
Further information – psychosis
Speak to your GP: Your GP should be able to provide some advice and guidance about dealing with psychosis.
Seek support: Support groups are available around the UK for people who experience delusions and hallucinations. Groups meet in person, but there are also internet support groups where you can share and discuss your experiences and coping techniques.
Feel free to contact us to ask about psychological therapies available at First Psychology Edinburgh that may help support you or someone you know who has psychosis.