Psychosis



Psychosis

Definition

Psychosis is a loss of contact with reality, typically including delusions (false ideas about what is taking place or who one is) and hallucinations (seeing or hearing things which aren't there).

Alternative Names

Psychotic

Causes

Psychosis is a severe mental condition characterized by a loss of contact with reality. There are numerous potential causes:

  • Alcohol and certain drugs can induce psychosis
  • Bipolar disorder (manic depression)
  • Brain tumors
  • Epilepsy
  • Psychotic depression
  • Schizophrenia
  • Dementia (Alzheimer's and other degenerative brain disorders)
  • Stroke

Symptoms

  • Loss of touch with reality
  • Seeing, hearing, feeling, or otherwise perceiving things that are not there (hallucinations)
  • Disorganized thought and/or speech
  • Emotion is exhibited in an abnormal manner
  • Extreme excitement (mania)
  • Confusion
  • Depression and sometimes suicidal thoughts
  • Unfounded fear/suspicion
  • Mistaken perceptions (illusions)
  • False beliefs (delusions)

Exams and Tests

Psychological evaluation and testing are used to diagnosis the cause of the psychosis.

Laboratory or radiological testing may not be essential, but sometimes can help pinpoint the exact diagnosis. Tests may include:

  • MRI of the brain
  • Tests for syphilis
  • Drug screens

Treatment

Treatment varies depending on the cause of the psychosis. Care in a hospital is often needed to ensure the patient's safety. Drugs that diminish auditory hallucinations ("hearing voices") and delusions, and stabilize thinking and behavior (antipsychotic drugs) are helpful. Group or individual therapy can also be useful.

Outlook (Prognosis)

The expectations for the outcome vary with the specific disorder. Many of the symptoms can be controlled with long-term treatment.

Possible Complications

Psychosis can prevent a person from functioning normally. During psychotic states, there can be an inability to care for oneself. If the condition is left untreated, there is a possibility of self-harm or harm to others.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider or mental health professional if a member of your family exhibits behavior indicating a loss of contact with reality. If there is any concern about safety, as described above, immediately take the person to the nearest emergency room for evaluation.

Prevention

Prevention depends on the cause. For example, preventing alcohol abuse prevents alcohol-induced psychosis.

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