Understanding the misunderstood

Psychosis is a condition of fear. For some it starts with a feeling of sensory overload. For others, the mind becomes an unsafe place where everyday worries become plausible fears.

Getting the best help available for a loved one often doesn’t happen or is delayed because of deep feelings of shame. Those experiencing the difficulty want to hide it.

Research is now showing that how loved ones react when they are told by a young person that they are hearing voices or struggling with paranoia can make a difference. Showing curiosity and listening is the best approach.

What are the stages?

We now know that there are 5 stages of psychosis. They are as follows:

  • Early phase
  • Being overwhelmed
  • The struggle
  • Living with your experiences
  • Living past your experiences

Who is at risk?

Everyone is at risk of developing psychosis. Childhood factors or genetic factors may increase your vulnerability to developing psychosis and can be exacerbated by stress or drug use or other factors in your life.

Experts in the field are concluding based on decades of research that for some trauma can lead to the development of psychosis. Is it any surprise that those of us who have experienced harmful life experiences or significant neglect go on to have significant difficulties with fear, shame and mistrust, some of the core psychological components of psychosis. For example, it would not be surprising if you experienced one acute incident or prolonged bullying that you would go on to develop preoccupations about the motives and agendas of others particularly at times when you are stressed or tired over a prolonged period. Having said that it is also true to say that bullying does not always lead to mental health difficulties as there are numerous individual factors that increase or decrease the likelihood of psychosis emerging over time.

Determining the difference between what is real and what is not real is not unique to psychosis. The human mind and how it is designed is vulnerable to misperceiving on a regular basis. Have you noticed this particularly at times when you are tired or stressed or going through a difficult life event.

What psychosis really means?

It is best to describe psychosis as including some or all of the following and each person is uniquely impacted:

  • Psychotic experiences such as paranoia and hearing voices.
  • Mania
  • Depression
  • Motivational problems
  • Cognitive problems – difficulty with memory, learning, concentration

When some of these factors combine and become a stable part of your daily life and are not transitory they need professional help.

There is help out there:

At St Patrick’s Mental Health Services, we deliver a programme called Living Through Psychosis that helps people in their recovery journey back to work and college.

Dr. Edel Crehan, Clinical Lead on the Living Through Psychosis Programme at St.Patrick’s Mental Health Services.

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