Psychosis can be terrifying, not only to the person experiencing it but also to the people around them. Even if someone has had a psychotic episode in the past, there is no easy way to prepare for another one. Understanding a little about psychosis and its symptoms can help you deal with it in the best way possible. The more you understand the easier it will be to support a loved one, and more importantly, keep them safe.
What Is Psychosis?
Psychosis is not a disease or illness. It refers to symptoms of another condition (e.g. schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, dementia, etc.) that affects the mind, causing the person to lose connection to reality. When a person experiences a psychotic episode, their thoughts and perceptions are severely altered and they may not be able to distinguish between what is real and what is not.
Types of Psychosis
There are three main types of psychosis: hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized thinking and speech.
- Hallucinating means seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, or tasting things that aren’t there. Someone hallucinating may see faces, people, animals, or religious figures that aren’t there. They might hear voices in their heads, or feel ants crawling on or under their skin for no reason.
- People with delusions have beliefs that cannot be true or that other people don’t share, yet they feel completely real. Two of the most common are delusions of grandeur (feeling you are a very important or powerful person with control over things that no one really controls) and paranoid delusions (unfounded thoughts that people are “out to get you”).
- Disorganized thinking and speech (also called formal thought disorder) includes racing or out-of-control thoughts, flight of ideas (linking things together in strange ways), and incoherent speech. Sufferers might speak very quickly, have trouble choosing their words, or find it impossible to focus on one thing at a time.
How To Support Someone Living With Psychosis
Successfully dealing with someone’s psychosis depends on how you react to their symptoms. A loved one’s psychosis can strain relationships and family dynamics. The best approach for supporting them is to be an empathetic, compassionate, strong, and grounded presence in their life. People with psychosis have a better chance of recovery when family members and friends remain involved.
Here are some basic Things to Do and Things Not To Do when dealing with a loved one’s psychosis. Remember that each situation is unique, so all of these may not apply.
- Call them crazy or tell them they are psychotic. This will not convince them, and sometimes may even reinforce their delusions, particularly if they suffer from paranoia.
- Take anything they may say personally. Their psychosis is distorting their thoughts and beliefs.
- Argue with them, invalidate their beliefs, or deny their reality. This only leads to mistrust and isolation and adds further emotional distress.
- Force them to talk, or to accept help.
- Dismiss their concerns, no matter how unrealistic. Remember that they believe what they think they are experiencing is real.
- Physically force someone to attend appointments or to take medication.
- Threaten them or judge them.
- Educate yourself. Learning more about psychosis can give you a better understanding of what may be happening and better equip you to deal with issues now and in the future.
- Ask slowly and calmly if there is anything you can do to help. Speak plainly as they may not understand humor or sarcasm.
- Respect their needs and freedoms as an individual, allowing them some level of control over what is going on in their life.
- Try to make them comfortable enough to talk about what is going on. Spend time with them and offer emotional support. This will also help you understand a little about what they are going through.
- Empathize with their emotions and situation, and stay positive. Show them you are on their side, and that you are there for them. Find and maintain a personal connection.
- Offer practical suggestions or solutions to help ease their fears, or help them get their thoughts in order.
- Encourage them to seek professional treatment and support.
- If they are already undergoing treatment, show support by helping them make or get to their appointments, or acting as their advocate.
- Make time to take care of yourself. You cannot help anyone if you are exhausted and burned out. You cannot serve from an empty bowl.
Remember that a person with psychosis has a medical condition that generally requires psychiatric treatment, and priority one has to be helping them get it. Many times they will not be open to the idea, and treatment cannot be forced on them unless they are a danger to themselves or others. It is critical to encourage them to seek help, and they may eventually agree to it if they feel supported and loved.
However, if they refuse help and their actions are putting themselves or others at risk, speak to a healthcare professional for advice. The doctor may recommend an assessment to see if they need to be hospitalized.
Why Choose Rising Phoenix?
Rising Phoenix Wellness Services is a licensed mental health and substance use disorder Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) in Scottsdale, Arizona. We created our addiction and mental health treatment program to offer a safe, welcoming, and nurturing environment where clients are embraced, not judged, throughout their recovery process.
We offer programming that is based on Integrity, Innovation, Confident Humility, and Mindful Leadership. Our Mission is to help people recognize the unique value of their life and improve their overall health and wellness.
Contact us to learn more.