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Psychosis: Symptoms

In general, there are 4 main symptoms associated with a psychotic episode:

  • hallucinations
  • delusions
  • confused and disturbed thoughts
  • lack of insight and self-awareness

Hallucinations

Hallucinations are when you see things that don't exist outside your mind:

  • sight – seeing colours, shapes or people
  • sounds – hearing voices or other sounds
  • touch – feeling touched when there is nobody there
  • smell – an odour that other people can't smell
  • taste – a taste when there is nothing in the mouth

Delusions

A delusion is where you believe something that's not true.

You may believe an individual or organisation is planing to hurt or kill you.

If you have grandiose delusions you may believe you have power or authority. You may think you're the president of a country or you have the power to bring people back from the dead.

Confused and disturbed thoughts

If you have psychosis you may have disturbed and confused patterns of thought.

Signs of this include:

  • rapid and constant speech
  • disturbed speech – for example, you may switch from one topic to another mid-sentence
  • a sudden loss in your train of thought, resulting in an abrupt pause in conversation or activity

Lack of insight

If you have a psychotic episode you may not be aware that your delusions or hallucinations are not real. This may lead you to feel frightened or distressed.

Postnatal psychosis

Postnatal psychosis (puerperal psychosis) is a severe form of postnatal depression. It usually happens in the first few weeks after having a baby.

It is more likely to affect women who already have a mental health condition. For example, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

Symptoms of postnatal psychosis can also include changes in mood:

  • high mood (mania) - for example, feeling elated, talking and thinking too much or too quick
  • low mood - for example, feeling sad, a lack of energy, loss of appetite, and trouble sleeping

Contact your GP if you think you or someone you know may have developed postnatal psychosis. If you think there's an imminent danger of harm, call 999 and ask for an ambulance.

Psychosis isn't the same as psychopath

"Psychosis" and "psychopath" are not the same thing.

Psychosis is a short-term (acute) condition that, if treated, can often lead to a full recovery.

A psychopath is someone with an anti-social personality disorder, which means they:

  • lack empathy - the capacity to understand how someone else feels
  • are manipulative
  • often have a total disregard for the consequences of their actions

If you have psychosis you are more likely to harm yourself than others.

Page last reviewed: 05/10/2018
Next review due: 05/10/2021

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