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How does psychosis manifest itself?

Psychosis is not a disorder in itself but a symptom or condition that can occur for a variety of reasons. Psychosis can occur in mental disorders but can also occur without any disorder. Psychosis is a condition in the brain where the connection with reality is partially broken. Thus, it can be difficult for a person with psychosis to distinguish between imagination and reality. For psychosis to exist, hallucinations and/or delusions need to be present that are not caused by the effects of drugs. Along with hallucinations and delusions, it is common to see a disturbance of thoughts or behaviour.

Hallucinations can come from all of our senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch). Hearing hallucinations are the most common, particularly a voice or voices. You can also experience misperception where perception is misinterpreted, for example hearing the wind and interpreting that as someone whispering.

Delusions are ideas that people believe to be true, but they do not match reality and others in their community and cultural world do not believe in the idea. Common themes of delusions are, for example:

  • Persecutory delusions

Example: The FBI is following me.

  • Delusions of reference

Example: The news has a message specifically for me.

  • Grandiose delusions

Example: I am supposed to save humanity.

  • Thought broadcasting/insertion ideas

Example: Everyone can read my thoughts.

Disturbance of thought

In psychosis, it is common for disturbance to occur in the flow of thought that appears as speech disturbance. Speaking will often be inconsistent, too fast or too slow. The person can take a long time to answer questions, respond with ready-made words and move quickly between topics that are only loosely connected and, therefore, often difficult to understand the individual.

Disrupted behaviour

Disrupted behaviour can often be associated with the hallucinations and delusions that the individual is experiencing. It can also be described as chaos in behaviour, agitation, inappropriate social behaviour and staring (holding the same body posture for a long time).