Psychosis

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.

This section is for friends and family who would like to support someone they know who experiences psychosis.

"You can help by lending an ear to talk to, especially between visits from mental health professionals."

It can be really hard to see someone you care about experiencing psychosis. But there are some things you can do to try and help. This page has some suggestions for ways you can support them while also looking after your own wellbeing.

  • Listen and try to understand. It can help if your loved one feels able to discuss their feelings and options with someone supportive and calm. Listen to their experiences and ask them what would help. Our information can help you understand more about psychosis.
  • Focus on feelings rather than experiences. It's hard to know how to respond when someone sees, hears or believes something that you don't. Instead of confirming or denying their experience it can help to say something like "I understand that you see things that way, but it's not like that for me". It's usually more helpful to focus on how the person is feeling about what they are experiencing.
  • Offer practical help. Ask them if they would like any practical help. For example they may like your help to access a particular service or ask you to act as an advocate for them.

"The extremes of behaviour and emotions played havoc with my relationships and daily functioning, to the point where the simplest of tasks overwhelmed me."

  • Respect their wishes. Even if you feel that you know what's best, it's important to respect their wishes and don't try and take over or make decisions without them. People tend to do less well if family and friends are very critical or over-protective.
  • Family intervention. Family intervention can help the whole family understand what the person with psychosis is going through and identify what is helpful and unhelpful for them and for you. You might want to ask your GP if this is available in your area.
  • Plan for a crisis. When your loved one is feeling well you may want to discuss and plan how you can help them in a crisis. This could include planning practical things like treatment and hospital visits. You might also find it helpful to state clearly what you feel you can and can't support them with during a crisis.
  • Get support for yourself. Seeing someone you care about experiencing psychosis can be distressing or frightening. Our information on how to cope when supporting someone else and how to improve your mental wellbeing can help you look after yourself too.

Help in an emergency

If you are worried that your family member or friend is becoming very unwell or experiencing a mental health crisis you could suggest that they use their crisis plan (if they have one). Our information on crisis services explains more about the help available to support someone in crisis.

This information was published in January 2020. We will revise it in 2023.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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