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Explains what psychosis is, including possible causes and how you can access treatment and support. Includes tips for helping yourself, and guidance for friends and family.
Psychosis (also called a 'psychotic experience' or 'psychotic episode') is when you perceive or interpret reality in a very different way from people around you. You might be said to 'lose touch' with reality.
The most common types of psychotic experiences are:
You might also experience disorganised thinking and speech.
Psychosis affects people in different ways. You might experience it once, have short episodes throughout your life, or live with it most of the time.
Some people have positive experiences of psychosis. For example, if you see the faces of loved ones or hear their voices you may find this comforting. Some people say it helps them understand the world or makes them more creative.
"Twelve years on, I can reflect upon my experience as a transformative one."
However, for other people psychosis can be a very difficult or frightening experience. You may find that it affects your behaviour or disrupts your life, making you feel very tired or overwhelmed.
Hallucinations or delusions could make you feel anxious, scared, threatened or confused. If you have delusions about certain people or organisations, you might find it hard to trust them.
It can also be upsetting if people around you dismiss your experiences as untrue when they seem very real to you. You may feel misunderstood and frustrated if other people don't understand. It might help to share our section for friends and family with them.
"The sense of shame and guilt I felt because was I incapable of functioning day-to-day as an adult left me isolated from others and aggressive to those who cared and wanted to help."
"It's an illness that can be treated just like any other. I don’t choose or want to be psychotic any more than people choose or want any other types of ill health."
There are a lot of misunderstandings about what it means to experience psychosis. Lots of people wrongly think that the word 'psychotic' means 'dangerous'. The media often shows people with psychosis behaving like this even though very few people who experience psychosis ever hurt anyone else.
It's important to remember that you aren't alone and you don't have to put up with people treating you badly. For some suggestions on things you can do to tackle stigma have a look at our information page on stigma and misconceptions.
This information was published in January 2020. We will revise it in 2023.
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