Early Assessment and Support Alliance

What Is Psychosis?


About Psychosis

Anyone can develop psychosis. Many people see or hear things that others don’t, or have ideas that are unusual. Psychosis is only a problem when it is causing you or someone close to you significant distress or harm.

What Is Psychosis?

“Psychosis” is a broad term that covers many different symptoms and experiences.

Common symptoms include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Feeling overwhelmed by sensory information
  • Difficulty filtering stimulation from the environment
  • Delusions
  • Confused thinking or speech
  • Difficulty doing ordinary things

Common Early Signs of Psychosis

Some of the most common signs of psychosis include:

  • A sudden loss of interest in things that the person used to find enjoyable
  • Inability to do the things that the person could do before
  • Social withdrawal and isolating from friends and family
  • Dramatic changes in sleep pattern
  • Statements or behavior that are bizarre and inconsistent with what’s going on around them


Emergence of Symptoms

Psychotic disorders rarely emerge suddenly. Most often, the symptoms evolve and become gradually worse over a period of months or even years. Early symptoms often include cognitive and sensory changes which can cause significant disability before the illness becomes acute and is finally diagnosed. Identifying and responding appropriately to the condition early can help to get the person and their family support.

Reduced Performance

  • Trouble reading or understanding complex sentences
  • Trouble speaking or understanding what others are saying
  • Becoming easily confused or lost
  • Trouble in sports or other activities that used to be easy
  • Attendance problems related to sleep or fearfulness

Behavior Changes

  • Extreme fear for no apparent reason
  • Uncharacteristic and bizarre actions or statements
  • New, bizarre beliefs
  • Incoherent or bizarre writing
  • Extreme social withdrawal
  • Decline in appearance and hygiene
  • Dramatic changes in sleeping or eating

Perceptual Changes

  • Fear that others are trying to hurt them
  • Heightened sensitivity to sights, sounds, smells or touch
  • Making statements like “my brain is playing tricks on me”
  • Hearing voices or other sounds that others don’t
  • Reporting visual changes
  • Feeling like someone is putting thoughts into their brain


Symptoms of Psychosis

Psychosis is generally defined in terms of “positive” symptoms. “Positive” symptoms are those symptoms which manifest outwardly, including hallucinations, delusions and speech disorder (also referred to as thought disorder).

Many people who experience psychosis also experience additional types of symptoms: mood symptoms (relating to moods and energy levels), abnormal movements and behaviors, “negative” symptoms (things that aren’t there now that that used to be), and cognitive symptoms (having to do with information processing). Below is a more detailed description of each type of symptom. Below is a more detailed description of each type of symptom.