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Updated : August 1, 2022 6 mins read


Updated : August 1, 2022 6 mins read

It’s important to remember…

The information that we put together in these pages are for informational purposes and should never be used as medical advice or instead of advice given to you from a health professional.

If you have any concerns about your mental health then you should always speak to a mental health professional or your GP.

We do our very best to put together information that gives you a good understanding of mental health issues and what can help but it is not intended as medical advice and we do not take responsibility that it is accurate or up to date at the time of reading.

Psychosis can be described as a mental health experience or episode. It affects around 3 in every 100 young people in Scotland.

What is psychosis

Psychosis is serious however it isn’t a mental health condition in its own right. It is usually caused by something else, such as a mental health condition, drug use or being under extreme stress.

When a person has psychosis they have unusual experiences where they can see, hear, smell or think differently.

Some people who have psychosis have positive experiences and may feel more creative or in touch with a higher power. However, things can quickly change or can feel very scary, confusing or make you unsure who you can trust.

People with lived experience describe psychosis as being stuck between a dream and a nightmare.

There is a lot of stigma around psychosis, which can make it hard for people who experience it to speak about it. The term psychosis or psychotic has been heard by many people, but it isn’t very well understood. Opinions usually come from films or TV shows which are mostly unrealistic in portraying what it is like to have psychosis. Because of this people can believe that someone with psychosis is dangerous or violent, which in the majority of cases isn’t true.

Types of psychosis

During a psychotic episode, a person can experience one of more of the following types of psychosis.

What causes psychosis

Psychosis can be better understood as a symptom than an illness in its own right. An episode of psychosis can be caused by a number of different things.

What does it feel like to have psychosis?

Everyone has a different experience of psychosis. Some people enjoy some elements of psychosis as it can make them feel creative or energetic. This type of psychosis could be more likely in things like mania in bipolar.

More often than not the experience leaves you confused, paranoid and for some people frightened about what is happening to them.

Some examples of what people with psychosis have felt:

  • Like you’re in another world
  • You can see secret messages that only you can decode
  • That people are trying to give you clues or are talking to you through television or radios
  • Being unable to switch off or sleep
  • Suspicious of people you love
  • Feeling like you have to do certain things like checking doors, windows. If you don’t something awful will happen
  • Creating connections that are bizarre to everyone else but seem completely natural to you
  • Feeling special or the chosen one
  • Can feel wonderful, warm and fuzzy like you’re in a daydream
  • Believing you have done wrong and should be punished

As you can see, there are a variety of experiences that people with psychosis have felt. There will also be lots of experiences that aren’t listed here.

If you are ever worried that you might be experiencing psychosis you should try to speak to someone as soon as possible. If you don’t feel you can talk to someone you know or your GP you can use these helplines:

Webchat: Childline Counsellor Chat
Call 0800 83 85 87 – Breathing Space (Scotland only service)
Text: ‘YM’ to 85258 – Young Minds crisis chat

Early warning signs

Early warning signs are like signals that an episode of psychosis might start.

It is important to also remember that these warning signs could also be for a lot of other reasons that are not psychosis or mental health related.

If you notice any changes in how you think, feel, behave or your day to day life then you should speak to your GP.

Common early warning signs:

  • Difficulty paying attention at school, work or in general
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Strange new feelings
  • Feeling nothing or numb
  • Unusual or intense new ideas or thoughts
  • Becoming worried or suspicious about other people
  • Withdrawing from friends, family or activities that you enjoy

Treatment for psychosis

Help and support for psychosis can be different depending on what the cause of it is.

If your psychosis is caused because of a stressful event, for example, once the event has passed and you have been supported through it, psychosis might not happen again for you.

People who experience psychosis as part of a mental health condition may need long term support as episodes become part of their life that they need to learn how to manage.

Regardless of the type of psychosis you experience, it’s important to get help as early as possible. This will mean that mental health professionals can get you the right treatment or intervention.

In severe cases or if you have been psychotic for a long time you might need to go into hospital for treatment

Going to hospital

In some cases, if people are really worried about your mental health you might need to spend some time in hospital. If you don’t agree to this, your doctor might ask for a Mental Health Assessment. If the outcome of a mental health act assessment is that it’s in your best interest to go to hospital and that you might be too unwell to make that decision, you will not have a choice about going.

Going to hospital can be scary, especially if you don’t see yourself as being unwell. The decision is only made if there is no other option, you don’t go to hospital as a form of punishment. While in hospital staff will keep you safe and support you until you have recovered enough from your psychosis to make your own decisions about your treatment.

Whatever path to recovery you choose, you should be involved as much as possible in deciding what kind of treatment you receive.

You might be offered:

Early Intervention Team (EI)

Early Intervention is a team of mental health professionals who work with people with first time psychosis. If you are referred to EI they will help you to get the support you need to recover from your psychosis. They will also help to monitor things like your medication, social support and can help your family to understand what’s going on.

Get Help now

If you are concerned about your mental health, or if you have found yourself feeling concerned about someone else, you can:

Call 111 – NHS 24

Call 116 123 – The Samaritans

Call 0800 83 85 87 – Breathing Space

Text: ‘YM’ to 85258 – Young Minds crisis chat

If you think you are in danger of hurting yourself or other people, you should call 999 or present to your local A&E department.