Signs & Symptoms of Psychosis

Understanding Psychosis

Learn About Psychosis

Psychosis, or psychotic episodes, can be very distressing and cause you to detach from reality. When a psychotic episode happens, you may experience one or more of the following symptoms for that period of time:

Abnormal behavior

Abnormal behavioral during a psychotic episode may appear in the form of catatonia (no movement), stereotyped movements, staring, smiling, not speaking, or mimicking others’ speech.


Delusions are strongly-held beliefs that do not change despite conflicting evidence. The following are six types of delusions that can occur as a result of psychosis:

  1. Persecutory delusions – feeling as if other people or organizations are plotting against you or to harm you
  2. Referential delusions – believing that there are subliminal messages being directed towards you
  3. Grandiose delusions – thinking that you have exceptional talents, notoriety, or wealth
  4. Erotomatic delusions – believing that someone else is in love with you
  5. Somatic delusions – thinking that something is wrong with your health or that your organs are not functioning properly
  6. Nihilistic delusions – feeling like a severe catastrophe is destined to happen

There are also instances where people have delusions to the extent that they believe their minds are being controlled by outside entities.

Disorganized thinking/speech

Disorganized thinking or speech can manifest in jumbled or incoherent thoughts or words. When this symptom of psychosis is present, your communication skills can significantly decrease.


Hallucinations occur when someone sees, hears, smells, or tastes things that are not actually there. These symptoms can be extremely distressing, especially when the individual believes that the hallucination involves something that he or she believes could cause harm.

Negative symptoms

Negative symptoms include abilities that seemingly disappear. For example, your ability to express emotion, make eye contact, speak, or move to complete a task may become limited. Some people who experience negative symptoms may also sit for a long period of time or lose interest in social activities.

Negative symptoms can signify that you are suffering from an untreated mental health disorder. When this is the case, you may require specialized services to alleviate your distress. Thankfully, there are many treatment options available that can help you manage psychotic symptoms and live a more satisfying life.


Psychosis Statistics

The National Institute of Mental Health, or NIMH, has reported that nearly one in 25 men and women in the United States struggle with a serious mental illness that may cause episodes of psychosis. The National Alliance on Mental Health, or NAMI, estimates that schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders affect just over one percent of the adult population in the U.S. Researchers have also discovered that stimulant drugs like meth and cocaine, hallucinogens like ecstasy and PCP, and depressants like alcohol and benzodiazepines are among the types of substances that can trigger episodes of psychosis.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and Risk Factors for Psychosis

There are many potential causes and risk factors that can make you vulnerable to experiencing episodes of psychosis. Please consider the following:

Genetic: Many mental health disorders are known to run in families. If you have a family history of disorders that can cause psychosis, you may be at risk for experiencing similar challenges.

Environmental: When you abuse illicit substances or take certain medications, you may be at risk for experiencing a psychotic episode. Additionally, experiencing a great deal of stress or having prenatal exposure to disease can also make you more susceptible to suffering from psychosis.

Mental health disorders: Psychosis is a symptom of certain mental health disorders. Therefore, if you are battling episodes of psychosis, you may be struggling with one of the following illnesses:

  • Bipolar disorder involves episodes of depression and at least one episode of mania. Both depression and mania have the potential to trigger the onset of psychosis.
  • Brief psychotic disorder is an appropriate diagnosis if you experience the sudden onset of delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, or odd behavior that lasts for at least one day, but for less than a month at a time.
  • Delusional disorder is present if you are experiencing one or more types of delusions for one month or longer.
  • Depression can cause feelings of sadness and other mood changes, though this disorder is also capable of eliciting episodes of psychosis.
  • Schizoaffective disorder causes you to experience both psychotic symptoms and symptoms that resemble bipolar disorder. However, psychotic symptoms and episodes of mania or depression do not happen at the same time.
  • Schizophrenia is a disorder that typically involves delusions, hallucinations, negative symptoms, bizarre behavior, and/or disorganized speech. Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that can cause symptoms to occur in episodes, or last for an extended period of time.
  • Schizophreniform disorder is similar to schizophrenia in that it can cause you to experience delusions, hallucinations, bizarre speech, odd behavior, or negative symptoms. It differs from schizophrenia in that the symptoms will last a minimum of one month, but less than six months.
  • Schizotypal personality disorder can cause you to experience delusions and speak in a bizarre manner. This disorder can also prevent you from interacting with others due to intense feelings of paranoia, fear, and/or anxiety.
  • Substance/medication-induced psychotic disorder can occur when you take a drug and/or medication that is able to cause episodes of psychosis.

Risk Factors:

  • Abusing certain substances or taking certain medications
  • Experiencing complications during birth
  • Having a family history of bipolar disorder, depression, or autism
  • Having a family history of schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, or other related disorders
  • Having a family history of schizotypal or borderline personality disorder
  • Having parents who were of older age when you were born
  • Prenatal exposure to disease and/or malnutrition

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Psychosis

If you experience any of the following signs and symptoms, you could benefit greatly from receiving professional mental health services:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Aggressive behaviors
  • Catatonia (bizarre posture, or not moving)
  • Declined participation in important activities
  • Disorganized or abnormal behaviors
  • Disorganized or nonsensical speech
  • Echoing speech
  • Impaired communication skills
  • Mutism (not speaking at all)
  • Repetitive movements
  • Self-harm
  • Social withdrawal
  • Staring

Physical symptoms:

  • Inability to experience pleasure
  • Lack of facial expression
  • Poor hygiene

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Confusion
  • Delayed thinking
  • Delusions
  • Depersonalization (feeling detached from yourself and/or your body)
  • Derealization (feeling as if the environment around you is not real)
  • Disorganized thinking
  • Disorientation
  • Hallucinations
  • Inability to focus
  • Paranoia
  • Poor concentration
  • Suicidal thoughts

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Abrupt mood changes
  • Anger
  • Depressed mood
  • Feeling agitated
  • Feeling irritated
  • Feelings of panic
  • Increased anxiety


Effects of Psychosis

Without seeking help, you could experience many negative effects as a result of suffering from psychosis. These effects can include the following:

  • Homelessness
  • Job loss and/or chronic unemployment
  • Loss of important relationships, including divorce
  • Loss of independence due to poor functioning
  • Onset of other mental health concerns
  • Overall decline in mental health
  • Physical harm due to violent behaviors
  • Police contact, which could lead to arrest and jail time
  • Self-harm
  • Social isolation
  • Substance abuse, which could lead to addiction
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Suicide attempts

Co-Occurring Disorders

Psychosis and Co-Occurring Disorders

If you are suffering from psychosis, it is possible that you may struggle with other mental health concerns at the same time. Examples of such disorders can include the following:

  • Anxiety disorders, including panic disorder
  • Neurocognitive disorders like dementia
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Substance use disorders like tobacco use disorder
  • Personality disorders
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