Psychosis and Psychotic Episodes
Psychosis and Psychotic Episodes
July 22, 2021

Psychosis and Psychotic Episodes

Psychosis causes you to lose touch with reality: seeing, hearing, believing things that aren’t real.

Psychosis is a mental health condition that affects the way your brain processes information. It can cause you to lose touch with reality: seeing, hearing, or believing things that aren’t real. In general it’s helpful to think of Psychosis as a symptom, more than an illness.


People with psychosis often have their own unique symptoms and experiences, but in general, the 3 main symptoms are: hallucinations, delusions, and disturbed thoughts.


Hallucinations occur when someone sees, hears, smells, tastes or feels things that do not exist in reality outside of their 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 cannot smell
  • Taste – a taste when there is nothing in the mouth

A delusion is when someone has an unshakeable belief in something that is untrue. Common delusions include believe an individual is making plans to harm them, or they are a person of grand stature or authority.

Confused and disturbed thoughts

Psychosis is often associated with disturbed and confused patterns of thought which can be seen through:

  • Rapid and constant speech
  • Disturbed speech – switching from one topic to another mid-sentence
  • Sudden loss in train of thought

Causes of Psychosis

We don’t know exactly what causes psychosis, but some risk factors include:

  • Genetics: You can have the genes for it, but that doesn’t always mean you’ll get psychosis.
  • Drugs: Triggers include some prescription medications and abuse of alcohol or drugs like marijuana, LSD, and amphetamines.
  • Trauma: The death of a loved one, a sexual assault, or war can lead to psychosis. The type of trauma and the age you were when it happened also play a role.
  • Injuries and illnesses: Traumatic brain injuries, brain tumors, strokes, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and HIV can all bring on psychosis.


It’s important to get treated early, ideally after the first episode of psychosis. The early it is addressed, the better chance you have to keep the symptoms from affecting your relationships, work, or school.

Your doctor may recommend antipsychotic drugs - to ease your symptoms, as well as suggesting you avoid drugs and alcohol.

Options For Psychotherapy Include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is designed to help you recognize when you have psychotic episodes, figuring out what is real or imagined.
  • Supportive Psychotherapy helps you to learn to live and manage your symptoms.
  • Cognitive Enhancement Therapy (CET) helps you think and discern better through using computer exercises and group work.
  • Family Psychoeducation & Support involves using your loved ones to help you bond and solve problems together.
  • Coordinated Specialty Care (CSC) combines medications with social support to create a team approach for treating psychosis.