Module 7: Psychosis


What is Psychosis?

Psychosis means “to break from reality”. An individual experiencing psychosis is having mental experiences that involve a distortion of, or loss of contact with, reality. This may be very frightening to a person and to those who care about them, but it is treatable with early intervention.

Most common experiences include:

  • Hallucinations- the individual realistically is perceiving something that is not actually happening. These hallucinations are sensory and may involve hearing a voice when no one is speaking or seeing something when nothing is there. Auditory hallucinations are most common but hallucinations can affect any of the senses.
  • Delusions- the individual has a belief in something that is not true, even when presented with proof counter to their belief.
  • Disorganization- The individual’s speech could be difficult to understand (incoherent) or their thinking could be scattered with their speech moving from topic to topic without a clear connection between the topics.

Facts + Myths

  • Psychosis has nothing to do with multiple or split personalities
  • Psychosis is treatable
  • People who are being effectively treated for psychosis are no more harmful or aggressive than other people. However, if someone is not receiving effective treatment, there may be unpredictable behaviour.
  • Psychosis has been proven to affect people at an equal rate around the world. A persons’ background, economic class, race or culture is not a factor.
  • For people who have a vulnerability to psychosis, drugs such as marijuana can bring on or worsen symptoms of psychosis.
  • Psychosis tends to show itself in young people.


The development of psychosis is divided into 4 main stages and each of the stages could last a few days, or weeks, or several years.

Young people generally have a slow and gradual onset of the illness called the prodromal or “at-risk” phase. This phase is often categorized by significant levels of depression and anxiety and the psychotic experiences often are minor and infrequent. Within this phase, young people, such as university students, may find it difficult to keep up with the educational, social and occupational developments in their life. Sometimes young people will self-medicate (use marijuana) as a way to deal with these syptoms.

The way psychosis develops for each person varies. Some people may never progress past this first phase while others may spend a long or short time in it.

Only a trained health professional (medical doctor) can diagnose an individual with psychosis, which is why it is important for individuals to seek out professional care if there is any point of concern. It is also important to note that the earlier treatment is received, the higher the chance of recovery


With effective treatment, many people reduce the symptoms and prevent future psychotic episodes. The treatment of psychosis is individualized and is based on which course of action is most helpful for the individual.

In general, a treatment plan could involve a combination of:

  • Medication- An essential component of treatment for psychosis is anti-psychotic medication. This can help with the symptoms of psychosis. Other medication may also be prescribed to treat other symptoms (such as depression and anxiety).
  • Education- knowledge is helpful, so it is important that the individual experiencing symptoms of psychosis, as well as their family and support, has all the necessary information about psychosis, it’s treatment and recovery
  • Psychological interventions such as therapy and development of helpful tools and strategies, which can build resilience and minimize stress. These also ensure that the individual maintains “a sense of self” and can continue with activities in their regular lives such as school and work. Practicing healthy self-care by exercising, sleeping and eating is critical for keeping stress at bay.
  • Support- peer support, family and friend support are helpful throughout the process. It may also be helpful to talk with others who have gone through similar experiences.

Ways to Stay Healthy

Brain health is linked to a healthy body, so keep the following in mind in order to stay healthy.

  • Eat Healthy. This can help maintain your energy, mood, memory and concentration.
  • Avoid excess amounts of sugar which can also result in diabetes, obesity and heart disease.
  • Drink water.
  • Try to get about 8 servings of fruit and vegetables each day. This builds tissues, slows down the aging process and protects against cancer and cardiovascular disease.
  • Limit caffeine intake. 1 cup a day in the morning is fine but no more than 2 a day and avoid all caffeine after 3pm. Caffeine can increase anxiety and worsen insomnia.
  • Try to get 150 minutes of exercise per week (10 minutes at a time). This will help improve:
    1. Your energy
    2. Mood
    3. Memory
    4. Concentration
    5. Immunity
  • It also helps reduce:
    1. Diabetes
    2. Obesity
    3. Heart disease
    4. Hypertension
  • And slows aging.
  • Reduce Stress. This can improve depression, anxiety, insomnia and reduce anger and frustration.
    1. Try running or yoga as stress reduction methods.
    2. Meditation and journaling may also help.
    3. Get out in nature.
    4. Spend time with friends.
  • Avoid alcohol and marijuana use. These can initiate or worsen symptoms of psychosis, depression or anxiety.
  • Refrain from drugs and prescription drugs you do not need as these can also worsen symptoms of psychosis.
  • Consider taking omega fatty acids as they promote heart health.

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