Psychosis

If you’re diagnosed with psychosis, it means a mental health professional has determined you have lost some contact with reality. You might see or hear things that other people can’t, or believe things that are not actually true.

Last updated: 18 May 2022

Many of us have had times when we’ve seen or heard things that other people can’t. For example, we may have heard the voice of a loved one who has died or glimpsed them in familiar places. This can be deeply comforting. Or we may have had the more upsetting experience of being convinced of flaws in our physical appearance that other people just can’t see.

None of these things mean you’ll be diagnosed with psychosis. But if symptoms such as paranoia or hearing voices start to interfere with your daily life – making it painful or distressing – then a mental health professional may diagnose you with psychosis. You may find your experience of psychosis very distressing and frightening, making you feel anxious, confused, overwhelmed and unable to know who to trust.

What causes psychosis?

Sometimes psychosis is caused by a specific mental health condition such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or severe depression.

Psychosis may also be triggered by a traumatic experience, stress, drug or alcohol misuse, side effects of prescribed medicine or even a physical condition such as a brain tumour. Childbirth can sometimes trigger postnatal psychosis.

Sometimes there isn’t an obvious cause or trigger.

Getting support

Psychosis is often treated with a combination of antipsychotic medicine, talking therapies and/or social support. Our page on schizophrenia has more information about what you may be offered.

Your doctor should refer you to a secondary mental health team if this is the first time you’ve asked for help with psychosis. This team may be called an early intervention team (EIT), community mental health team (CMHT) or crisis team. They can manage your care to make sure you get the right treatment and social care support.

Self-help resources

Some people find peer support – where you talk to other people with the same symptoms or diagnosis as you – can help them feel less alone and discover new ways of coping. For example, the Hearing Voices Network runs support groups for people who experience voices, visions or other sensory experiences.