for better mental health

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.

Hallucinations

Hallucinations could include:

  • seeing things that other people don't (for example people's faces, animals or religious figures)
  • seeing objects that seem to be distorted or move in ways that they usually wouldn't
  • experiencing tastes, smells and sensations that have no apparent cause (for example feeling insects crawling on your skin)
  • hearing voices that other people don't (these could be positive and helpful or hostile and nasty).

"I felt as though I was in wonderland. None of my family or friends understood why... I had a calling from a voice in sky. I was lost and lonely."

Delusions

Lots of people have beliefs that many other people don't share. But a delusion is usually a belief that nobody else shares and which other experiences or perceptions show cannot be true. It is natural for delusions to feel completely real to you when you are experiencing them.

You might think that you are a very important person. For example, you may believe that you are rich and powerful or that you can control the stock markets or the weather. These kinds of beliefs are sometimes called 'delusions of grandeur'.

Some people find that they can spend a lot of money or take on a lot of debt while they are experiencing psychosis, because their sense of reality has been affected. See our pages on money and mental health for more information and support.

Some delusions can be very frightening and can make you feel threatened or unsafe. For example, you might feel that something or someone is trying to control, harm or kill you (even when you have no reason to believe this). These ideas are sometimes called paranoid delusions.

Hearing voices, paranoia and schizophrenia

Watch Miles talk about his experiences of paranoia and hearing voices.

Disorganised thinking and speech

Hallucinations and delusions can make your thoughts and emotions feel confused and disorganised, but disorganised thinking (sometimes called 'formal thought disorder') can also be a specific type of psychosis.

Mental health professionals may use the following terms to describe what you are experiencing:

  • Racing thoughts is when your thoughts go through your head very fast. It can involve them racing so fast that they feel out of control.
  • Flight of ideas is where your thoughts move very quickly from idea to idea, making links and seeing meaning between things that other people don't.

Many people find that they experience racing thoughts and flight of ideas at the same time. If you have disorganised thinking you might:

  • speak very quickly and stumble over your words so that other people may find it difficult to understand what you're saying
  • link words together because of the way they sound rather than what they mean, which can make your speech sound jumbled to other people (this is sometimes called word salad)
  • change the topic of conversation very quickly as your thoughts move from one thing to another
  • find it difficult to keep your attention on one thing.

"Racing ideas flooded my mind. It seemed as though my mind was disintegrating, my inner life – my unconscious mind – started flooding my consciousness without a break."

You may also have racing thoughts and flight of ideas if you experience mania or hypomania. If you only experience them during a depressive, manic or mixed episode then you may be given a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

See our pages on bipolar disorder for more information.

Talking about schizophrenia

Watch Alice, Brian, Jamie, Martin and Louise talk about their experiences of psychosis as part of being diagnosed with schizophrenia.

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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