Learning How to Support Someone With Psychosis

learning how to support someone with psychosis

Experiencing psychosis can be frightening, no matter what your age or background is. It’s often difficult for family members and friends to be prepared when one of your loved ones is having a psychotic episode, especially if it’s the first time. First, you’ll have to learn what psychosis is, its symptoms, how it works, and how to recognize it so that you’ll get a better idea of how to help your loved one. Once the disorder has been identified, the methods and strategies needed for dealing with it can be devised.

People are often afraid to talk to their loved ones about the psychotic thoughts they are experiencing because they aren’t sure how to navigate such complex topics and don’t want to make things worse. The better you understand how to communicate with them, the easier it will be to help them and stay connected. Learn some of the most effective strategies for working with a person who is experiencing psychosis in this simple guide.

What Are the Symptoms of Psychosis?

The term psychosis refers to symptoms that affect the mind and which often result in a loss of contact with reality. This collection of symptoms is associated with a variety of medical conditions such as schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, dementia, alcoholism, and more. During a psychotic episode, a person’s perceptions and thoughts are altered, and the individual may not be able to distinguish between what is real and what is not.

Maintaining a relationship with a loved one who has psychosis depends heavily on how you respond to these symptoms. Do your best to remember how scary what they’re experiencing is for them while communicating. No matter how absurd or insignificant their concerns may seem to you, try to see things from their perspective rather than your own. It is easier if you are on their side, listening and not confronting them directly. Consider the emotional content of the conversation rather than whether the facts are accurate or not. Pay attention to the themes that are communicated in what they say when they are speaking. Usually, there are some reality-based elements woven into the story, and those are what you should focus on and respond to.

Guidelines for Supporting Someone Experiencing Psychosis

The following guidelines will help you avoid common pitfalls and mistakes that can set you and your loved one back. Each person and situation is unique, so these rules won’t necessarily be applicable to everyone.

Here are a few things to avoid when talking to someone with psychotic thoughts: 

  • You should avoid calling them crazy or trying to tell them they are psychotic. Although it might seem like it will help, telling someone they are psychotic will not convince them to stop thinking that way. In fact, sometimes, it can serve to reinforce delusions instead.
  • It’s important not to take anything they may say personally. Those who are experiencing psychosis and paranoia have a tendency to mistrust and be suspicious of others. All relationships can come under suspicion and be compromised by delusions.
  • Avoid denying or arguing with them about their reality. It can be hard not to engage in delusional beliefs sometimes, but confronting your loved one can make them feel more isolated and mistrustful towards you.
  • Likewise, do not dismiss their concerns or laugh them off. Regardless of how bizarre or confusing their fears may seem, they are not entertaining to someone suffering from a psychotic episode. It’s important to remember that their brain believes what they’re experiencing is real.

How to Help

Instead of trying to snap your loved one out of it, try a more gentle approach. Calmly ask them if you can help in any way, and try to make them comfortable enough to share what’s going on in their lives. Empathize with their situation and offer practical solutions that can help mitigate their fears, rather than dismiss them as delusions or hallucinations. Caring attention and support are often the best way you can help your loved one.

Nevertheless, a person experiencing psychosis is suffering from a medical condition and requires psychiatric treatment. The most important thing you can do as a loved one is helping them get it. However, a person experiencing psychosis won’t always be open to receiving treatment, and unless their actions are putting themselves or others in danger, we can’t force them to get it.

Because of this, it’s crucial that we find ways to make treatment more accessible and less intimidating for those living with psychosis, and that’s where Life Adjustment Team can help. We offer flexible and individual-oriented assertive community treatment services that meet our clients where they are and take place in settings that allow your loved ones to feel safe and make progress in their journeys to recovery in ways that aren’t always possible in a traditional inpatient setting. Contact a member of our Clinical Team to find out more and get started today!

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