1. Understanding psychosis


Psychosis as a symptom in mental health disorders

There are many mental health problems that can include psychosis as a symptom. In the early phases of psychosis, it is usually difficult to diagnose the exact type of disorder. Factors that determine a specific diagnosis are often unclear during an episode of psychosis. The list below outlines different conditions in which a person may experience symptoms of psychosis. It is important to remember that many people with these disorders learn to manage their symptoms and lead productive and fulfilling lives.

Click on the name of condition to learn more.

Sometimes symptoms of psychosis can appear suddenly and are triggered by a major stress in a person’s life, such as a death in the family. This type of psychosis lasts less than a month.

Symptoms of psychosis may appear as a result of a physical illness or a head injury. A thorough medical examination should be conducted to rule out or confirm this type of psychosis. This examination may involve some tests or investigations, such as brain scans.

This disorder is characterized by very strong and fixed beliefs that are not true. Changes in perception, such as hallucinations, are not present in this illness. Delusional disorder does not usually affect a person’s ability to function, so it may be difficult to make a diagnosis in the early stages of this disorder.

Schizophrenia refers to a disorder in which a person experiences some symptoms of psychosis for at least six months, with a significant decline in their ability to function. The symptoms and length of the illness vary from person to person.

In the following video, Dr. David Goldbloom speaks about schizophrenia.

This disorder is similar to schizophrenia, except that the symptoms last for more than one month and less than six months. This condition may completely resolve or may persist and progress to other psychiatric diagnoses, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or schizoaffective disorder.

This disorder is characterized by symptoms of both schizophrenia and a mood disturbance. It may be difficult to distinguish schizophrenia from schizoaffective disorder. Fortunately, the disorders respond to the same treatments and have a somewhat similar course.

In the following video, Jonny Benjamin describes what it’s like to have schizoaffective disorder and expresses how hard it is to live with the stigma.

The symptoms of psychosis present in bipolar disorder relate more to a mood disturbance than to a thought disturbance. A person will experience elevated mood (mania) and sometimes depression. When symptoms of psychosis arise, they often reflect the person’s mood. For example, people who are depressed may hear voices that put them down and people who experience an elevated mood may believe they are special and are capable of doing amazing things.

Sometimes a person will experience severe depression with symptoms of psychosis, without the mania associated with bipolar disorder.

Some substances can directly cause psychosis. The use of substances such as cannabis, cocaine and alcohol, or withdrawal from these substances, can cause symptoms of psychosis by increasing a person’s existing vulnerability to psychosis. Once the effects of the substances wear off In substance-induced psychosis, the symptoms of psychosis may resolve or may require medical treatment.

Empowering Families Affected by Psychosis © , CAMH.