What is Psychosis?
Psychosis is a temporary state in which the individual’s experience of the world is markedly different from others in their culture or subculture. Psychosis pertains to a set of experiences or symptoms. Contrary to popular belief, psychosis and psychotic-like experiences are common, modifiable, understandable, and treatable. Click here to learn more.
Psychosis can look different for each person, but is often characterized by one or more of the following experiences: unusual thinking that is particularly resistant to contradictory evidence and out-of-sync with prevailing beliefs held by others in one’s culture or subculture (e.g., beliefs that the TV or radio contain personal references), perceptual disturbances (e.g., hearing voices or seeing things that others are not able to perceive), and unusual or disorganized behavior (e.g., behavior that is odd for a given setting or circumstance, such as wearing heavy winter gear in the summer). Collectively, these symptoms are known as the “positive psychotic symptoms” because they represent experiences that are in addition to someone’s typical, or baseline, experience of the world.
Psychosis may also be characterized by negative symptoms, which are so-termed because they represent the absence of typical experiences. This includes increased isolation from others, a lack of motivation, difficulty expressing or identifying emotions, decrease in the range of emotions felt or the intensity of those emotions, and reduced speech.
Psychosis may also be accompanied by cognitive symptoms, which can include memory deficits, difficulties planning, difficulty organizing one’s thoughts, impulsivity, and challenges with concentration and attention. Many people may also experience mood symptoms, such as increased sadness, irritability or increased agitation, thoughts of suicide, loss of interest, or physical symptoms (e.g., loss of appetite, fatigue).
Psychosis is not an “all-or-nothing” phenomenon; rather, psychosis, like other experiences or symptoms, exists on a continuum. This means that individuals may experience a spectrum of psychotic symptoms, ranging from less severe to more severe, and less frequent to more frequent. We are each susceptible to psychosis, and we can each take steps to prevent and treat psychosis.
Psychosis is treatable, and treatment works.
Find Out More…
The following list of websites will link you to credible sources of information about psychosis. There is a lot of misinformation on the web about psychosis and schizophrenia spectrum disorders, but these websites have been vetted to ensure that you have access to accurate and reliable information, based on the current state of the field.
American Psychiatric Association (APA)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Connect with other families navigating life with psychosis:
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (national)
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (Washington)
- Psychosis REACH at University of Washington (Washington)
- LEAP Foundation (national)
- Chad’s Legacy Project (Washington)
- Mothers of the Mentally Ill (Washington)
- Zia Larson’s Ray of Light Foundation (Washington)
Connect with others who experience psychosis