What is Psychosis? Symptoms of Psychosis
Psychosis manifests itself through a range of symptoms that affect an individual's thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. Symptoms of psychosis are frequently separated into "positive" and "negative" symptoms. "Positive' symptoms are thoughts and feelings that are "added on" to how a person usually thinks and feels (e.g., slightly suscipious become paranoid) and feels and "negative" symptoms are things that are "taken away" (e.g., reduced motivation or reduced intensity of emotion).
Some of the positive symptoms include:
Delusions (Fixed false beliefs that are resistant to reason or actual facts)
I thought I had invented several things already. I thought people from the States stole my ideas when I was six years old. I thought they were paying my grandpa off for my inventions. I thought he was a millionaire from my inventions.- Garnet, youth
- being followed or monitored
- being plotted against
- having special abilities or "powers"
- certain sights or sounds are specifically directed towards the young person or communicating a hidden message (e.g., the television announcer is personally criticizing you)
- being controlled by forces or other individuals
- having one's thoughts broadcast so others can hear them
Just then, surprisingly, there were voices bouncing off the wall, they were in different language that Ajax couldn't understand. "Go away!" Ajax thought, but they didn't go away, they just got louder and weirder.- Ajax, youth
Hallucinations involve seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling or tasting something that is not actually there. The most common type of hallucination involves hearing things - such as voices or particular sounds. These hallucinations can be so real that the individual may not realize that what they are hearing is not actually there. Some people hear voices coming through their ears and other people hear the voices inside their head. The content of the voices could range from critical to friendly and may even tell people what to do. It is often the odd behaviour that happens as a result of the hallucinations that gets noticed. At times the person might be observed talking to themselves or making odd gestures as if someone is in their presence. These can be frightening experiences and can vary in intensity from person to person.
Disorganized Speech or Behaviour
The speech of individuals with psychosis may be disorganized in such a way that the person moves quickly from one topic to the next, or to the point where the person's speech may not be understandable.
The behaviour of individuals with psychosis also may be disorganized. The person may have difficulties performing activities of daily living (e.g., cooking, self-care) or display inappropriate behaviours or responses (e.g., laughing while describing a personal tragedy).
Negative symptoms reflect a decrease in, or loss of, normal functions. These symptoms are often less evident than positive symptoms and require careful assessment.
Some examples of negative symptoms include:
- reduced display of emotions
- not speaking very much
- difficulties in thinking or coming up with ideas
- decreased ability to initiate tasks
- lowered levels of motivation or drive
- loss of internal mental richness
It is also common for other symptoms or problems to occur along with the psychotic symptoms.
There can also be changes in mood, thought, and communication: for example, fear, anxiety, sadness, need for self-protection, anger and irritability, and distrust towards others. During this time, a person may have more difficulty concentrating, keeping organized, and may find it more challenging to communicate to other people the way they normally do.
Some examples of other problems that may occur include:
- suicidal thoughts or behaviours
- alcohol and/or other drug use problems
- difficulties functioning
- sleep disturbance - for example staying up all night
- cognitive problems such as difficulties with memory, concentration, reasoning, etc.
Once treatment is initiated, acute psychotic symptoms should lessen and will usually fade away completely. However, some symptoms, especially negative symptoms, may linger. Even after the psychosis has responded to treatment, problems such as depression, anxiety, decreased self esteem, social problems and difficulties with work or school may continue or start for the first time and require further support and treatment to help promote a full recovery.