Early Treatment for Psychosis

Psychosis is one of the most serious mental disorders. A person who is suffering from psychosis is experiencing a break with reality.

It is often a sign of schizophrenia, a debilitating illness that affects every aspect of a person’s life and makes it nearly impossible to work, attend school or perform daily functions.  In the past, people who were diagnosed with psychosis or schizophrenia were hidden from society in mental institutions.  Today, with early treatment including medication and therapy, it is possible to stop the progression of psychosis and the onset of schizophrenia.

Symptoms of Psychosis

The main symptoms of psychosis are delusions and hallucinations.  Delusions are persistent false beliefs that defy logic.  In an article entitled “Which Way Madness Lies” in the December 2010 issue of Harper’s Magazine, author Rachel Aviv describes the delusions of a young woman she calls Anna who felt that the people around here were changing and eventually concluded that they were made of paper.  Anna also experienced hallucinations, which are false sensory perceptions.  She perceived objects as composed of tiny, buzzing particles rather than solid materials.

Additional possible symptoms of psychosis include:
•    Confused and disorganized thinking and speech
•    Strange and risky behavior
•    An onset of problems with relationships
•    Loss of interest in normal activities and personal hygiene
•    Difficulties in completing once-easy tasks for work and school
•    A cold and detached demeanor
•    Mood swings, depression and mania

Causes of Psychosis

The causes of psychotic disorders vary.  Researchers have found a strong genetic link, with psychosis and schizophrenia running in some families.

Chemical imbalances in the brain can lead to psychosis.  Environmental factors such as stress and major life changes can play a role in the onset of this disorder.  There is also evidence that the abuse of marijuana, LSD or amphetamines can accelerate the symptoms of psychosis in people who have other risk factors.

About 1 in 100 people worldwide are affected by psychotic disorders.  The first symptoms often appear when a person is in their late teens or 20s.  Men and women suffer from psychosis in equal numbers.

Treatment for Psychosis

The early “aura” that precedes full-blown psychosis by two to three years is known as prodrome.  While in the prodrome phase, people have minor hallucinations and delusions that they recognize as unreal.  They still have enough insight to realize that their altered view of reality is due to illness.  This is the best time for early treatment of psychosis.

The treatment for patients in the prodrome phase of psychosis is antipsychotic medication combined with psychotherapy, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).  The newest types of medication, often referred to as atypical antipsychotics, have fewer side effects than older medications.  Treatment is often complete on an in-patient basis, but prodrome patients who are a danger to themselves or others may require hospitalization during treatment.

The length of treatment varies by individual, with some people showing improvement quickly while others require weeks or months to find relief from their symptoms.  About one third of people with prodrome experience full-blown psychosis within two years.  In the Harper’s article, Anna’s mother was schizophrenic and Anna recognized her altered view of reality as an early onset of the disease.  She sought help and with medication and therapy was eventually able to resume normal activities as a graduate student.

Our network of rehab centers is equipped to handle treatment for women and men exhibiting some basic mental disorders like:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
  • Mood disorders

For patients exhibiting symptoms of psychosis, we typically refer out to another facility in our network.  If you have any questions about treatment for symptoms of psychosis, schizophrenia, or other disorders, call us today.

Click here to read more about Co-Occurring Disorders.

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