Psychosis is often misunderstood by people to mean psychotic or psychopath (e.g. crazy axe person!). However, this is a serious and dangerous misconception. Psychosis actually refers to symptoms outside of ‘normal’ experience, such as hallucinations and delusions.
Hallucinations are experiences that are not based in reality (e.g. sounds or visions that appear out of nowhere). Although hallucinations can take any sensory form – sight, sound, smell, taste and touch - hearing voices that other people do not hear is the most common type.
Delusions are unshakeable beliefs based on the person’s altered perception of reality, which may not correspond at all to the way others see the world. Delusions may take on different themes – someone experiencing paranoid delusions may believe they are being chased, plotted against or poisoned. These people often believe that a member of their family or someone close to them is making this happen.
Schizophrenia is a common diagnosis among those who experience psychosis. People often think of schizophrenia as a ‘split’ or ‘multiple’ personality. In fact, it has nothing to do with any kind of personality disorder.
In fact, schizophrenia is a mental illness which occurs when the parts of the brain responsible for emotion and sensation stop working properly. The illness can develop slowly and a person may stop living their normal life, withdrawing from people, losing interest in things and possibly having angry outbursts. This is due to the main symptoms of psychosis and loss of experience – e.g. they may become slower to think, talk and move, and may have become indifferent to social contact or their sleeping patterns may have changed.
If you believe you, or someone close to you is suffering from these symptoms, please see your GP. Medication may be offered in the form of anti-psychotics. Talking therapies can be useful and self-help support groups such as Wirral Pathfinders may be able to help.