Psychosis: Risk Factors & Symptoms

Mental illness or psychosis are general terms that are used to describe a set of symptoms or disorders that affect your mood, thinking, behavior and emotions. These disorders make it hard for someone to think clearly, make good judgements, communicate effectively or behave appropriately.

Psychosis is a brain based condition that is made better or worse by environmental factors, and so sufferers are often unable to handle daily life. Even in such cases, psychotic disorders can usually be managed or treated with a combination of medications and talk therapy.

Many people may have mental health concerns from time to time, but this becomes psychosis when ongoing signs and symptoms cause frequent stress and affect you ability to live a normal life.

About 3.5% of the population experience some form of psychosis, and while the experiences can be scary and confusing, it is possible to recover especially when the issues are tackled early.

Some examples of psychotic disorders are schizophrenia, depression, anxiety disorders, addictive behaviors and eating disorders.




Causes and Risk Factors

Doctors do not know the exact cause of psychosis, however researches believe that the following factors may play a role:

  • Brain chemistry – When neural networks involving neurotransmitters are impaired, the functions of nerve receptors and systems change, which can lead to depression.
  • Environmental exposures before birth – exposure to environmental stressors, inflammatory conditions, toxins, alcohol or drugs while in the womb can be sometimes linked to mental illness.
  • Inherited traits – Psychosis is more common in people whose blood relatives also have a mental illness. Certain genes may increase your risk of developing psychosis and your life situation may also trigger it.
  • Brain damage – Serious brain injury such as a violent blow to the head may result in brain damage that may cause mental illness.
  • Ongoing medical condition such as diabetes.




Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of psychosis or mental illness may differ depending on the exact disorder, circumstances and other factors. Some examples of signs and symptoms include:

  • Hearing or seeing something that isn’t there.
  • Inability to sleep or concentrate.
  • Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt.
  • Feeling sad or down.
  • Significant tiredness and low energy.
  • Major changes in eating habits.
  • Disorganized or bizarre speech or writing.
  • A change in personality.
  • Increased withdrawal from social situations.
  • Excessive anger, hostility or violence.





To determine psychosis, your doctors will likely take a medical and psychiatric history and perform the following tests:

  1. Physical exam – your doctor will true to rule out any physical problems that may be causing your symptoms.
  2. Lab tests – Your doctor may prescribe tests for your thyroid function or a screening for alcohol and drugs to rule out any other causes for your symptoms.
  3. Psychological evaluation – A mental health provider may talk to you about your symptoms, thoughts, feelings and behavior patterns. You may also be asked to fill out a questionnaire to help answer these questions.





Most psychotic disorders are treated with a combination of medications and psychotherapy, which is a type of counseling. Your treatment team may include your primary care doctor, family members, psychotherapist, psychiatrist and nurse practitioner.

Although psychiatric medications don’t cure mental illness, they can often significantly improve symptoms as well as make other treatments more effective. Best medications will depend on your particular situations but may include antidepressants, anti anxiety medications, mood stabilizers, and anti psychotic medications.

Psychotherapy, also called talk therapy, can be used which usually involves talking about your condition and related issues with a mental health professional. You will learn about your condition, moods, feelings, thoughts and behavior.

These insights are meant to give you the knowledge to help you cope and manage the stress better. When choosing your therapist, you should make sure to feel comfortable and confident that he/she will be capable of listening and hearing what you have to say.

Brain Stimulation treatments are other options to explore. These are sometimes used for depression and other mental health disorders. They are usually reserved for situations in which medications and psychotherapy haven’t worked. They include electroconvulsive therapy, transcranial magnetic stimulation, and an experimental treatment called deep brain stimulation and vagus nerve stimulation.







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