"Is What I’m Seeing Normal?"
What is Psychosis?
People suffering from psychosis are unable to tell what is real and what is not real. They may see or hear things that other people around them don’t see or hear. They may also have thoughts or behaviors that seem irrational or odd. People experiencing psychosis are not “crazy”; they simply have lost touch with reality as a result of a mental illness.
Psychosis isn’t a “normal” part of growing up but sometimes it can be seen that way depending on the stage the person is in. For example, there are times where the symptoms may appear slowly so they may be ignored or set aside and thought of as regular life transition. However, there are other times when the symptoms may appear rapidly and in a very short period of time. The first time an individual experiences a psychotic incident it’s called the “first episode” of psychosis. Early intervention can make a huge difference in how the youth deals with the psychosis and their quality of life in the future. In some cases, if the first episode of psychosis is diagnosed and treated right away, it may be the only time they experience psychosis.
Should I be Worried?
If you are witnessing more than one of the following symptoms, then it is important to talk to someone (such as a doctor or psychiatrist) about what is happening:
1.) Your youth sees, hears, tastes, smells or feels things that others tell them aren’t real or normal.
2.)They have a strong belief in something when everyone else tells them it’s not true. For example, they may believe that they are being watched or followed all the time and hold onto this belief even after speaking to friends and family who have reassured them that it’s not actually happening.
3.) They do things that other people often find weird or odd. For example, they talk to themselves in front of other people.
4.) There is a history of mental health issues or psychosis in the family.
5.) People tell them it’s hard to understand what they’re saying or that they don’t make sense, but they believe they’re speaking clear and understandably.
6.) They are having difficulty understanding written material and have trouble writing clearly (you or their teacher may have noticed a drop in their marks or they have stopped attending school)
If you feel like more than one of these symptoms apply to your youth, this does not automatically mean that they are suffering from psychosis and you should not panic. The first step is to talk to someone you trust (e. g. a family member, teacher at school, a friend) and ask them what they have noticed and if they are also concerned about the youth. If so, you can get in touch with a doctor to check out these concerns; your doctor may refer your youth to a psychiatrist if needed for further assessment and treatment.
How Can I Help?
Although psychosis can be very scary to witness as a parent or caregiver, the good news is that getting help early can make a big difference. Psychosis, like many other mental health conditions, is known to respond well to treatment, especially when it is caught early. If the youth has any of the symptoms mentioned earlier, and/or there is a history of mental illness in the family (that you know of), it is a good idea to speak to a doctor or psychiatrist to get a “mental health” checkup for your youth.
Research shows that the effects of psychosis can be kept well under control with proper medications and consistent treatment. The best thing that a person with psychosis can do is to try to get involved in productive activities while taking the proper medication. This might include talking to a trained counselor or therapist as well. Trying to keep their mind and body busy and active will go a long way in minimizing the effects of a psychotic illness.