Not only is psychosis hard core mental illness but it’s probably the worst mental state your body can ever access. It’s the most damaging thing for your brain tissue, one of the most terrifying things people in your life can experience and the most dangerous for yourself and your surroundings.
Your wealth and overall health can be totally destroyed and it can be confusing and scary as hell. And at last, it’s completely invisible to the eye, which makes it extremely difficult for everyone to make sense of.
About 3 out of 100 people will experience a psychotic outbreak at some point in their lives and its most likely to happen in late teens, early 20s, or late 20s especially for men. What happens and how can vary from person to person. It can even vary from time to time, if one person gets it several times.
It might be a bit scary to watch from afar but just visualize the person having gotten a virus on his brain, or have cancer in the brain or the flu in the brain. Something like that. He is not possessed by the devil, so no shame.
But, what exactly is psychosis?
Well, even scientist can't seem to fully figure it out. Some theories are out there but we literally have no clue. If you search the web you'll find different explanations but mostly of symptoms. According to our go-to online encyclopedia, wikipedia, the definition of psychosis is:
"A severe mental disorder in which thought and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality"
So, when you lose touch with whats real and see, hear, or believe things that aren’t real, that indeed we call psychosis.
Psychosis is a symptom, not an illness per se, and its caused by a mental or physical illness, drug abuse, extreme stress or trauma. When in psychosis it’s normal to have at least one of the following conditions.
An Interesting fact is that the psychotic person may not always find these experiences distressing. It is even possible to stay in work and function at a high level in life even if one has these experiences.
But, let’s dig deeper into what these symptoms really means;
Hallucinations is when you see, hear or feel things which are not actually there, like
Seeing things which other people do not see
Feeling someone touching you who is not there
Smelling things which other people cannot
These are beliefs that are not true according to our society and may seem irrational to others. Such as
you are being followed by secret agents or members of the public
people are out to get you or trying to kill you. Strangers, friends or family members
something has been planted in your brain to monitor your thoughts
you have special powers, are on a special mission or in some cases that you are a God or Jesus
Motor disturbances / Catatonia
Catatonia is a state of neurogenic motor immobility and behavioral abnormality.
Characterized by a cluster of signs and symptoms including mutism, stupor/immobility, staring, posturing, negativism, withdrawal, rigidity, and autonomic abnormalities.
Either excessive abnormal movements or frozen in a posture for a long time is normal.
Thought disorder describes an underlying disturbance to conscious thought and is classified largely by its effects on speech and writing. Specific thought disorders include derailment, poverty of speech, tangentiality, illogicality, perseveration, neologism, and thought blocking. The affected person shows loosening of associations and in severe form speech becomes incomprehensible and it is known as "word salad"
Cognitive experiences are ones that relate to mental action; such as learning, thinking, remembering and functioning. Such as
being unable to sustain attention
unable to take on information
poor decision making
trouble interpreting social cues of others
All this might sound awful, am I right?
Well, you know what, for many people these experiences in psychosis is actually heaven (and hell at the same time), and once you’re out of it, life as a normal person will appear dull and completely pointless. The constant attacks and explosions of thoughts and colors, meanings, purpose, discussions and other fun experiences have vanished and now it all seems grey and monoton. This can lead the person to actually wishing to go back to that state or else get super depressed by the lack of circus.
To make sense of it it is as if you’re on drugs. High, ecstatic and full of life and ideas. Its either a good trip or a bad one. You see, the same neurotransmitters and endorphins are being produced in the brain and body. Your brain is on max, running wild, there are several theater scenes and characters talking all playing in your head at the same time. Your brain goes so fast that its no wonder it burns itself up(which is almost what happens) For those of us who have never tried drugs the closest is to become mental ill yourself or else there is no way to understand. Or lets try this, do you remember a time where you were more scared than ever before or in complete adrenaline rush feeling that you were going crazy? Multiple that with 1000 and thats how it feels.
The development of a psychosis might flourish from these things but sometimes psychosis also can appear out of the blue for any reason.
Loss of motivation, purpose
Sleep problems, or change in sleep pattern
Stop doing activities that one has found enjoyable before (hobbies, sports etc..)
Anxiety, ie scared of leaving the house, panic attacks
Is extremely interested in one specific topic all of a sudden
Indifferent or showing strange emotional instability
Not interested in cleaning their house, clothes, body etc
Reacting weird when something happens, ie laugh when someone is sad
What’s the reason and why?
There are many reason one can get it. Mental and physical conditions may cause it and also use of drugs.
Here are some typical examples
But really, how easy is it to grasp for others?
Psychosis needs to be spotted by others in able to give the person treatment, as the person has no clue himself of whats going on. Since mental illness is not for the visible eye it can be extremely difficult to spot if you have no knowledge of it. Many psychotic people can be enormously talented in covering themselves up. Seriously they could win the olympic games of masquerading themselves if that was an option that existed.
They know there is something about them which is not normal for other people and they are fully aware that revealing their "secret" might end in something bad happening to them. They have not a single clue about their own illness, they believe they’re perfectly well and nothing at all is out of order, in fact they feel they are on top of the world.
They may have a clean and perfect shiny appearance and even look way better than and outshine most people. And also, they can function in society completely normal under their own surveillance.. and rules.
Anyways, if someone you know is suddenly behaving a bit different than normal, like withdrawing or shows reduced interest in social activities or other activities that used to be enjoyable to the person, and shows suspicion that might be a sign, or suddenly if he/she starts to use a lot of money and live on the extravagant side of life, or just starts to talk and talk, move to much and nothing really makes sense as a whole.. That might be some signs.. or if the person start move his/her body in an unfamiliar way and continues to do that, or just have a difficult time finding words and putting them together and a normal way...Or just is extremely scared or not afraid at all. A sign is also if the person shifts mood in a matter of seconds and continues to do so. Or shows no emotions at all (such as facial expression and gestures) or have trouble interpreting social cues of others.
All this is in a way symptoms, but seriously, some times you need to dig deep to actually understand if something goes on. You perhaps also can see it in their eyes, if something is slightly different than earlier, that you can't seem to find the normal glance, then you're also into something.
If the person is convinced of being stalked by the police or government, then you know there is something weird happening, if this actually is just a normal citizen.
Or if the person actually believes that he/she is Jesus, God, Buddha, Allah, Elvis Presley or someone great in history.
Also remember to look at psychosis and mental illness just the same as physical illness. Think of the person as having the flu, on the brain or has cancer, brain tumor or simply is lying in the street bleeding, hit by a car or something. Its just that you lose the mental contact with the person who makes it a bit more scarier and confusing.
What physically is going on ?
Science tells us that dopamine, a chemical in the brain, is involved in psychosis. Dopamine is one of the neurotransmitters that helps to control the flow of information in the brain. If you turn on the tap of dopamine, the brain will want to take in more and more information. With psychosis, researchers says that the tap of dopamine is turned on too high, which leads to a constant rush of information that overwhelms the brain thus the medications that are most often used to treat psychosis help to control the amount of dopamine in the brain.
Why is being in psychosis harmful for the body?
Science showes when in psychosis you are under a lot of stress, and when you are high in stress, the amygdala in the brain gets over active, which results in it producing more white blood cells which makes you more prone to cardiovascular disease. Other health risks related to stress is obesity, headaches, depression, gastrointestinal problems, alzheimer's disease, accelerated aging and so on.
What do do if someone you know gets it? How to figure it out?
There is no point in trying to talk to the person about it because an absolutely clear sign of psychosis is that the person lack disease insights.
It can even worsen the situation cause the person might end up avoiding you or running away, even run out of the country with no traces left behind is a typical case.
If you're suspicious call the persons doctor, or the police or the hospital. Or some relatives first to see if they know what is happening. Do not be scared to do so. Remember you are doing your friend a favor. Not making him turn into a dement vegetable for the rest of his life, which will happen if the person doesn't get treatment. And you go not want the person to get dementia an early age, with no reverse opportunities? do you?
What to do if you find out that you have it?
Well, most definitely you won't. Most people in psychosis believe they are perfectly normal, indeed they are not just normal they are unique beings with superpowers very often.
Recovery and treatment
I’ts important to get treatment as soon as possible.
What happens if you have it over a long period and many times or don’t get treated?
Well your brain pretty much eats itself up and it turns into dementia. And then, there is no way back. You end up as a vegetable which you now have to be for the rest of your life. And that, thats a sad story. For everyone involved. That my friends, are why you need to help out as.
Medication and a good therapist is needed, the therapist should be a safe anchor and give the patient their fullest attention with understanding and empathy, most importantly respect. Remember, the person affected is in complete chaos and frustration and have no idea who he is or what the world is or nothing. Completely in panic and confusion, and shame. They are so embarrassed of what they've experienced. This is a normal human being who need all the respect in the world, more than others. If not, the uncertainty and insecurity will follow and the process back to a normal life and society will be even longer.
I believe that love, compassion and being seen can help the process immensely. Some people say that one can never fully recover but that its possible to get better and have an ok meaningful life symptom free. But that is also up to the person to understand that it will probably be a handicap for the rest of its life so there is a need to understand how to avoid triggers. Good routines, sleeping enough, eating right, exercise, no stress and having loved ones near is medicine. But I guess, one should consider using medicine for sometime until all this is well established cause going of the meds can pull you right back if you are not prepared and learn to observe your thoughts mind and analyze whats happening and take action. You need to get to know yourself, that might be hard but if not, stress, lack of control, challenging situations happening abruptly will knock you right back.
Psychosis is not fun. One will learn immensely either as a friend, dependent or as the one who experiences it but I dont recommend to use that as a way to grow as a person. Because, if you first get there, maybe you'll never get well. If you are super curious drugs could be used, but I dont recommend that either cause it might put you in a case that you'll end up like that for a long time. You know, drugs messes with your brain chemicals and you never know if you have the right genes for making things worse.
An interesting fact is that many great people throughout history has been suffering from mental illness and some even has reached psychosis to top it off. Apparently there is a fine line between genius and madness because they share the same genes, scientists have found.
A good story is when Van Gogh cut his ear off, that probably happened in psychosis, why else should he cut his ear of? Just for publicity and fame? No don't think that was the reason.
Anyway final say, reach out for help if you see someone you care about shows sign of this! And show loads of respect and love. Maybe you'll be the savior that makes the whole situation a bit better. Or maybe even save his or her life.
If you randomly happen to understand Norwegian this is a easy graspable documentary to watch to learn more :