Psychosis is a critical medical condition which indicates abnormal functioning of the brain as a result of disturbances. Patients of psychosis lose touch with reality as portrayed by the way they think, believe, perceive or behave. The condition is sometimes associated with distress and disorientation. It can be treated but in cases of ineffective treatment, then it becomes a big challenge to the patients and their immediate families (Psychosis, 2012). This implies that once its stmptoms are identified, patients should seek immediate medical attention.
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In some occasions, psychosis starts to show itself slowly over time such that it is not easy to discover it during the initial stages. In other situations, the symptoms show themselves spontaneously making it easy for the individuals and people close to them to identify that there is an abnormal healthy condition. The symptoms are not universal since they are unique among different individuals and are susceptible to changes as time goes by. The beginning of the psychotic symptoms is referred to as its first episode (Definition of Psychosis, 2012).
Anybody can be a victim of psychosis especially individuals between the ages of 16 and 30 years. It affects both females and males with males experiencing the symptoms earlier than females. Individuals whose families have cases of acute mental illnesses are exposed to greater probability of suffering from the condition.
Symptoms of Psychosis
Individuals experiencing psychosis exhibit behavior that deviates from their normal ways of behaving. Often, they seem de-motivated and extremely lethargic and all they do is only to rest. They find it difficult to begin projects or complete what they had started. In addition, they may stop taking care of themselves by abandoning personal hygiene while others become suddenly active and appear restless. Individuals at times experience difficulties in managing their roles like work, personal finances or studies. This causes them to behave aggressively, recklessly, impulsively or even reverting to irresponsible sexual relations. Other symptoms may influence the behavior of individuals experiencing psychosis. For example, an individual with delusive thoughts that they have been given bad food may decline to take it. They may also exhibit strange facial expressions or may move repeatedly in the same manner. Such movements and strange facial expressions are caused by delusions and hallucinations (Compton & Broussard, 2009).
Changes in Emotions
Individuals who suffer from psychosis express emotions different from the ones they normally express. For some of them, maintaining the normal emotion range becomes difficult hence they speak flatly and in an emotionless manner. They become disinterested in the world and are often removed from the daily chores and people around them. At times, it is common for them to express emotions that deviate or do not march the situations they describe. For instance, they may be seen laughing while they describe sad or traumatizing events. In addition, emotional incongruity may be observed among individuals who experience psychosis. This occurs when mood swings take place causing individuals to express extreme depression or excitement that contradicts the environment or the situations.
Changes in Understanding and Awareness
Difficulties in comprehending what is happening around an individual or variations in their capacity to understand mostly occur when individuals suffer from severe brain diseases. Individuals suffering from such disorders fail to communicate with people or understand the importance of events. Their awareness of date, time or their physical location may be impaired. In addition, it may be difficult for them to recognize close relatives and may even fail to understand themselves in severe cases. All individuals experiencing psychosis do not suffer from similar symptoms, they vary among different people. However, it is vital for family members of the individuals to take note of the following. First, psychotic symptoms distress the individuals and leave them in a state of confusion. Second, the symptoms do not indicate that the individuals are lazy or have flaws in their characters and finally, they are not used as strategies of gaining attention
Causes of Psychosis
Researchers and experts in the field of medicine have not yet established what causes psychosis. But since it is associated with various physical and mental disorders it is probable that its causes are many. Many theories regarding its cause have been advanced but definite answers have not been established. It has been observed that some individuals are vulnerable to psychosis as a result of different genetic and biological factors that put them at risk. When this vulnerability is coupled with stress, it triggers episodes of psychosis. Stress is a significant life event like losing a loved one or alteration of social conditions such as unemployment or shifting residence. It can also be explained to be the daily hassles such as worries about financial matters. The effect of stress on psychotic individuals has been studied in detail revealing that it is an important factor at the onset of the condition and also later as the condition develops.
The causes of psychosis are classified into three categories. The first category is psychological or mental conditions, the second one is general medical conditions while the third one includes substances like use of alcohol or drugs.
There are different psychological problems known to trigger psychosis. The first psychological problem is schizophrenia which is a long-term or chronic condition of the mind that leads to delusions and hallucinations. The second one is bipolar disorder. This condition was recently referred to as manic depression and affects the moods of individuals causing them to oscillate between two extremes. The third one is severe depression which is a feeling of deep sadness that takes a long period of time to recover from. It includes postnatal depression experienced by some women immediately after birth (Ellwood, 1995). Other psychological causes of psychosis include lack of sleep and severe anxiety or stressful conditions. The type of psychological problem that causes psychosis has an influence on the psychotic episode type experienced by an individual. For example, individuals suffering from bipolar disorder are vulnerable to delusions of grandeur while other individuals with schizophrenia or depression have a high likelihood of developing paranoid delusions.
General Medical Conditions
In addition to psychological problems, there are some medical conditions that cause psychotic episodes in some individuals. The first medical condition is HIV and AIDS. This is a disease that weakens the immune system of the body among individuals. The second one is malaria which is a tropical disease spread from one individual to another by mosquitoes. The third medical condition associated with psychosis is Alzheimer’s disease. This is the most prevalent form of dementia. It makes the mental abilities of the patients like reasoning and memory to decline. The fourth one is hypoglycemia which is the abnormal reduction in the levels of blood sugar. The fifth one is multiple sclerosis which is a condition that affects the spinal cord and the brain, commonly referred to as the central nervous system while the sixth one is Parkinson’s disease, a chronic medical condition that leads to poor coordination of body movements like talking, walking and writing which are coordinated by the brain. Other medical conditions believed to cause psychosis include lupus, Lyme disease and brain tumors (Gleeson & McGorry, 2004).
Other Substances that Cause Psychosis
Misuse of drugs is a factor that can lead to psychotic episodes. The episodes can also be initiated by sudden halt from use of drugs which had been previously used for long, a condition referred to as drug withdrawal (Graham & Copello, 2003). Some of the common drugs believed to cause psychosis include cocaine, cannabis, alcohol, LSD, Ketamine, methamphetamine, magic mushrooms and amphetamine. In some rare occurrences, psychosis is experienced either as a result of side effects associated with certain types of drugs or overdosing them. Such drugs include antidepressants, tranquillizers like benzodiazepines, anti-epileptic drugs, ant cholinergic drugs and levodopa, which are drugs used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. In order to counter these causes associated with drugs and other substances it is advisable for individuals to continue taking prescribed drugs until they are advised otherwise by medical professionals. In case of side effects arising from certain drugs, individuals should seek medical help.
According to researchers, psychotic episodes lead to certain biological and physical changes that affect the brain. The use of magnetic resonance imaging, a scan done on the brain has revealed that individuals with psychosis history have less grey matter. Grey matter is associated with the task of thought processing in the brain. The scans employ radio waves and concentrated magnetic fields to capture images of the inner parts of the body.
The outcomes of this research have compelled researchers to opine that recurrent psychotic episodes may damage the brain, although this is subject to further research. Alternatively, a history of psychosis and a decline in the amount of grey matter may be symptoms of unidentified medical condition.
Dopamine is also believed to play a critical role in the development of psychosis. It is a neurotransmitter, one among the chemicals used by the brain in the transmission of information among cells. It is believed to cause reward and pleasure feelings. For example, enjoyable or pleasurable events increase dopamine levels in the brain. It is believed that dopamine levels among individuals suffering from psychosis increase significantly. The excess alters the specific brain pathways that perform some of the most crucial tasks like self-awareness, memory, social behaviors and emotions. A disruption in some of the critical brain functions may provide an explanation for psychosis symptoms.
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The fact that some medications that counter dopamine effects also counter psychosis symptoms has been used to prove that dopamine plays a role in psychosis. However, some illegal drugs like cocaine, cannabis and amphetamines which increase brain dopamine levels may lead to psychosis (Causes of psychosis, 2010).
Types of psychosis
Psychosis is of different types but the first episodes of the condition make it difficult to determine the type individuals suffer from. This is due to the fact that the criteria for establishing the different types of the condition have not been discovered, for example the length of time and severity of the symptoms. However, if comprehensive assessments are conducted, it is likely that proper diagnosis of the condition will be achieved. Specialists in mental health utilize information derived from different sources including information they get from the individuals, physical examinations and history of their families to get an idea of events happening in the lives of the individuals. The assessments are carried out in a confidential manner with an exception of a few cases.
Individuals do not have similar experiences with psychosis and although the diagnosis of one individual may be replicated in another, they may exhibit totally different symptoms and level of effects. Some of the common types of psychosis are described below.
This is a psychotic disease whose symptoms are observed for about six months or longer. Although there are beliefs that individuals with schizophrenia suffer from multiple personalities, this is not usually the case.
This is a disorder characterized by extreme changes in the moods of the individuals. They experience high moods commonly known as mania or low ones commonly referred to as depression and psychosis may surface in either of the moods. The thinking of psychotic individuals is determined by their moods at a particular moment. For example, when people show extreme excitement, psychotic individuals may believe that they possess unique talents that are absent in their character.
This type of psychosis is characterized by severe depression although psychotic symptoms are observed simultaneously. Its difference from bipolar disorder is that the patients do not experience mania.
Brief Reactive Psychosis
Symptoms of psychosis express themselves in a sudden manner, usually after individuals experience major stress. This is different from other forms of psychosis in that individuals may not exhibit any of the conventional symptoms associated with psychosis. The symptoms are present for a short duration of time like a day or one week after which individuals recover fully (Buck, 2012).
This is a form of psychosis where individuals exhibit only one symptom, delusions. Delusions occur when individuals cling to strong beliefs that are not shared by other people and which in most cases are removed from reality. They may start acting on the basis of the beliefs and this causes other people to notice that something is wrong.
Physical illnesses that alter the normal functioning of the brain trigger psychosis. Some of the illnesses which have been discussed earlier include brain tumor and AIDS but it is not guaranteed that physical illnesses automatically lead to psychosis.
Schizoaffective disorder resembles psychotic and bipolar depressions in that psychotic and mood disorder symptoms are common in both. The only difference between the two is that mood disturbance or psychosis symptoms take place simultaneously but psychosis can at times exist without disturbance of the mood. Mood disturbance is an indication of a big portion of time spent wrongly during the entire illness period (Types of psychosis, 2005)
Treatment of Psychosis
Many people have asked questions on whether psychosis is a treatable condition. There are different treatment options available for individuals suffering from psychosis. The treatment of the condition falls under three broad categories which include psychosocial, pharmacological and education. Psychosocial treatment entails training on social skills, day programs, vocational rehabilitation, ways of reducing stress and cognitive therapy. Pharmacological treatment is comprised of antipsychotic medication. These medications have been remarkably improved and have little side effects. Their purpose is the restoration of cognitive problems such as memory and attention issues. The treatment usually begins during the acute phase and continues as the condition persists regardless of whether the symptoms are visible or not. The third type of treatment for psychosis is education.
Individuals who experience psychosis can be given medication to counter the symptoms of the condition. It is difficult to identify in advance the most appropriate medication for an individual and this prompts a number of medication adjustments to be carried out. This period of uncertainty is usually challenging for all the parties involved. Some of the medications may be accompanied by disturbing side effects such as restlessness, dry mouth, and drowsiness. However, medications that have been discovered in recent years are tolerable compared with the ones that have been in existence. They are mostly used as the primary treatment method for young people. Some of the common medications for psychosis include atypical antipsychotics, antidepressant medication, mood stabilizers and anti-anxiety or sedative medications (Treatment of Psychosis, n.d)
Education is another important way of treating psychosis. It is aimed at achieving several fundamental facts about the condition. The first one is to understand the illness. Treatment centers are supposed to educate psychosis patients and their family members on the medical condition. This provides them with adequate information about the condition and encourages them to take part in its treatment. The second aim of education is to enable psychosis patients and their families understand the treatments. This is usually appropriate during the phase of recovery and provides them with information on medications, effects of uncertified drugs, early signs and psychosocial treatment. The third goal is to ensure that patients understand the importance of on-going care. Through the programs, individuals are informed on the importance of continuing with medication even when they feel better. The fourth aim is to provide information to the family members of the patients to place them in a position where they can assist their loved ones experiencing the condition (Tyrer & Silk, 2011).
Hospitalization and Constant Follow Up
Cases of serious psychosis episodes require individuals to be hospitalized. This gives them a chance to undergo observation, assessment and medication if necessary in the presence of qualified medical staff. Hospitalization is aimed at providing the patients with the right medical attention and protection. Once individuals get stable and leave hospital, the chances of reoccurrence of the symptoms are reduced through constant follow up. It is therefore important for individuals who experience psychosis to maintain close contact with medical specialists to ensure that they recover fully from the condition.
Exercise, Rest and Nutrition
Just like other illnesses, the process of recovering from psychosis requires individual to be patient. The process is facilitated by a balanced diet, enough sleep and exercising regularly. However, eating well and sleep patterns may be interfered with by medication side effects. It is important to supervise the daily routines of psychotic individuals because they may lose appetite, withdraw from their regular daily activities or they may simply forget to eat the foods they are supposed to eat.
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