What is psychosis?

A person who is suffering from an episode of psychosis can have problems recognising what is real and can have difficulty thinking clearly as they normally would. When someone is affected in this way they may have unusual or strange ideas, they may hear or see things which are not real and they may have problems managing their emotions.They may also have difficulties organising their thoughts so that their speech may seem disorganised and illogical at times. Psychosis has also been described as a condition that causes a person to lose contact with reality. Psychosis can severely disrupt a person's life. The person experiencing psychosis may have difficulty maintaining their usual level of functioning in school, work or homelife and it can also interfere with a person's normal development.

Psychosis is a treatable condition and if detected and treated early can mean that the person may never suffer another episode.

Signs and symptoms

The way in which a person experiences psychosis can vary greatly from one person to the next but there are some common symptoms which may occur during an episode of psychosis.

False Beliefs

A person may have strong beliefs or ideas, which are not real to others. These beliefs are usually fixed and the person has difficulty believing they are not true despite evidence to the contrary. Some examples of this are people believing they have special powers, thinking they are being followed or having a sense that they are being communicated with through TV or the radio.


Hallucinations involve the five senses and affect the way in which a person interprets the world around them. When a psychotic episode occurs the senses are disrupted, a person may see things which aren't there, hear things which aren't there and even taste, smell and feel things, which aren't there. An example of this is hearing voices when there is nobody else around.

Confused Thinking

When a person experiences psychosis their thoughts can become confused and muddled up, it can be difficult to have a conversation with someone when this is happening because their speech can be confused and disorganised. Sometimes the person feels as though their thoughts are racing or that they are slowed down in some way.

Changed Behaviour

It is often the changes in people's behaviour during an episode of psychosis that draws attention to the fact that they are unwell. The person may have difficulty performing usual activities like schoolwork, paid work or hobbies. They may become more socially withdrawn or isolated. It is also possible that a person can become overactive or behave in a way that is unusual for them. They may engage in illegal activity such as using illicit substances or getting into fights with people.


What is psychosis?

Who can get psychosis?

What causes psychosis?

Phases of psychosis

Types of psychosis

Is psychosis treatable?

Drugs and psychosis

Why is early intervention important?

What can friends and family do?

Personal accounts of first episode psychosis and recovery