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Understanding Psychosis

Psychotic episodes can be upsetting, frightening, and confusing to watch someone you love go through. Approximately 100,000 young adults exhibit early symptoms of psychosis each year, according to a study conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness. An estimated 3 out of 10 Americans will experience psychosis at some point during their lives. Thankfully, there are a variety of treatment options available to those experiencing a psychotic episode, and recovery is possible with the right kind of support.

Taking action as soon as you notice the first signs of psychosis can help ensure your loved one gets optimal treatment and ensure a better outcome and a safer life for them. In most cases, however, families and friends are not prepared when a loved one goes through a psychotic episode, and it can be challenging to navigate the right way to help. The first step is to learn what psychosis is and how it works.  

What is Psychosis?

The term psychosis describes a feature of an illness rather than a particular diagnosis. It refers to symptoms that affect the mind, which often result in a loss of contact with reality. This syndrome, or 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.

An individual who is suffering from this condition is likely to experience hallucinations and delusions. A delusion is a strongly held or compulsive false belief, such as the idea that someone around you is conspiring against you or that your television or your radio is sending you secret messages. Hallucinations are false perceptions. Hallucinations involve hearing, seeing, or feeling something that isn’t there. 

Other symptoms include incoherent or nonsensical speech and inappropriate behavior. People experiencing a psychotic episode may also suffer from depression, anxiety, trouble sleeping, social withdrawal, and lack of motivation. 

What You Can Do to Help

If your loved one is experiencing a psychotic episode, there are a few rules you should follow to keep everyone safe and avoid escalating the situation:

Talk slowly

Communicating with someone who is experiencing a psychotic episode can be challenging. They may have a difficult time recognizing jokes and humor or be easily overwhelmed by loud voices. You should always use a calm and measured tone whenever you are speaking, and be sure to speak clearly and simply. Allow your loved one time to answer your questions, and refrain from overburdening them with too much information. 

Empathize

No matter how frustrating the situation may be to you, keep in mind that your loved one has no control over or understanding of what’s happening to them. Refrain from blaming them or making them feel guilty for what they’re experiencing, and try not to suggest that their experience isn’t real. While their episode is clearly false reality or shocking to you, the feelings are genuine to the person experiencing a psychotic episode.

Keep a positive attitude

Be supportive when your loved one becomes scared or angry. Attempt to slowly divert their attention away from hallucinations and gently redirect conversations related to delusions. Offer them love, dignity, and respect, and encourage them to talk to a trusted therapist or medical professional about any concerns that may be out of your depth once the episode is over.

Life Adjustment Team Can Help

Outpatient treatment programs like LAT’s assertive community treatment model of care are an immeasurably valuable resource for individuals experiencing psychosis and their families. We offer state-of-the-art rehabilitation techniques, comprehensive training, and in-home care and case management services available every day of the year in order to provide a robust support network that lessens the burden on family caregivers and helps those with chronic conditions progress towards recovery. 


Our practice is informed by 40 years of experience in community-based psychiatric rehabilitation outreach and the very best training, research, and expertise in the health and behavioral fields. When you work with our Team, you can trust that your loved one is safe in the hands of highly qualified professionals with a proven track record of successfully helping people gain self-confidence, find direction, and make progress along their journeys to recovery. Contact a member of our clinical team today to get started!