By Herman Le Roux
Over the years many people have asked me what it is like to get psychosis. Well, that does not have an easy answer but here is a little education.
Psychosis is a mental state. It is associated with mental illness, usually Schizophrenia but it is not exclusive to that. Psychosis is also seen in bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder and a few others. So what is Psychosis?
Psychosis is a state where a person loses contact with external reality. This can manifest in several ways. The person can have auditory, visual and olfactory hallucinations. Thought patterns become disrupted, senses become extremely sensitive and aggression or rage can occur. It however differs for every person. Not every person with mental illness get psychosis and those that do get it in different intensities. In bipolar disorder psychosis usually occur in euphoric mania but it can also happen in depression.
I am fortunate that my psychotic episodes are few and far between. They are also not very intense. I would hear a knock in my head, the room would be completely light even though it is pitch black dark and my senses would become extremely sensitive. To the point that I have to remove all sensory stimulation. Anti-psychotics help me and I usually do not need to be hospitalized. I have only had 3 psychotic episodes where I lost contact with reality and had to be hospitalized. For that I am thankful.
But what does it feel like? Pleasant it is not. It’s not like being high or being drunk, it’s very confusing and more often than not scary. Most people know that they are psychotic and that makes it so hard to deal with, to know you are experiencing something that is not real. Others sadly are so psychotic that they do not even know who they are.
How is psychosis treated? Psychosis can only be treated with medication. Although there are coping mechanisms and triggers to avoid, in general psychosis can only be treated with medication. I know when I am nearing psychosis so I know what to avoid and what to do.
How to deal with someone that has psychosis.
1. Never give the person alcohol or narcotics. This can lead to a state called toxic psychosis that is extremely dangerous where the person can become very violent and have to be restrained.
2. Never argue with someone that has psychosis, it is only oil on the fire. It is best to agree with the person until the episode is over.
3. Do not intensify sensory stimulation. For example, someone that is psychotic might not be able to handle noise, so turn of the music. Remember what you experience the person with psychosis experience ten times more intense.
4. Never call someone with psychosis crazy, insane or nuts. That is extremely degrading and should be avoided.
5. If the psychosis is light, comfort the person and try to make it ok for them.
6. If the psychosis is intense get the person to a doctor, do not try and solve it yourself because you will only make it worse.
Psychosis does not equal insanity. Many people that get psychosis live happy lives. They just get episodes where they need to be protected. Remember that often the psychotic person is the one that needs protection, not the other way around.
Psychosis is not a death sentence. Learning to recognize the warning signals, not fueling the fire and keeping in mind that the person is ill and not “crazy or insane” goes a long way towards making psychotic episodes brief and manageable.