Thursday, July 5, 2012

What is Psychosis?

Psychosis is a loss of contact with reality that can include the following:
  • Delusions: False beliefs about what is taking place or who one is
  • Hallucinations: Seeing or hearing things that aren't there
  • Disorganized thought and speech
  •  Disordered thinking: thoughts that jump quickly between unrelated topics

Psychosis or psychotic symptoms can be found in:
  •  Most individuals with Schizophrenia or Schizoaffective Disorder
  • Some individuals with Bipolar Disorder
  • Some individuals with Personality Disorders

Some medical problems can cause psychosis, including the following:
  •  Use of and withdrawal from alcohol and certain illicit drugs 
  •   Brain diseases such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease
  •   Brain tumors and cysts
  •  Dementia and Alzheimer’s
  •  HIV among other infections that affect the brain 
  •  Certain prescription drugs such as steroids and stimulants
  •   Some types of epilepsy
  •   Strokes

What is a delusion?
A delusion is a thought or belief that is clearly false and indicates an abnormality in that individual’s content of thought. This false belief cannot be accounted for by the individual’s religious beliefs, cultural beliefs or level of intelligence.  The key feature of a delusion is the degree to which the individual is convinced that it is true. A person with a delusion will hold firmly to that belief regardless of the evidence to the contrary. A person with a delusion is absolutely convinced that the delusion is real- they hold no level of doubt and nothing could convince them otherwise.

Types of delusions

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV-TR; the following are the types of delusions:

Erotomanic: Someone with this type of delusion believes that another person, often someone important or famous, is in love with him or her. The person might attempt to contact the object of the delusion or stalk them.
Grandiose: A person with this type of delusion has an exaggerated sense of self-worth and self-importance. They are convinced that they have special powers, talents or abilities. Sometimes individuals with grandiose delusions believe that they are a famous or are an important person such as the pope, Jesus Christ or an actor or musician. Very commonly an individual with this type of delusion believes that they have made a huge accomplishment for which they have received insufficient recognition for.
Jealous: An individual with this type of delusion falsely believes that their spouse or partner is having an affair.
Persecutory: These delusions are based on an individual’s suspicions that they are being targeted by someone or something.  Individuals with persecutory delusions mistakenly believe that they are being followed, harmed, spied on, poisoned or tormented. They may believe that someone is planning to hurt them or that they are being mistreated.  Sometimes individuals with this type of delusion will make repeated reports to legal authorities.
Somatic: A somatic delusion pertains to an individual’s body.  An individual with this type of delusion typically has a false belief that their body is diseased in some way, is abnormal or has changed in some way. An individual with this type of delusion has the belief that they have a physical defect or medical problem.
Mixed: Individuals with this type of delusion have a combination of two or more of the types of delusions listed above.

What is a hallucination?
A hallucination is when an individual senses something that appears to be real when what they are sensing has actually been created by the mind.  They can appear in the form of visions, voices, sounds, tactile feelings, smells or tastes. Hallucinations occur during periods of consciousness. 

Types of hallucinations

Auditory hallucinations occur when an individual hears voices that are not really present.  These voices can incite panic.  Some examples of these voices would be; an individual hearing voices that are warning them about impending danger, multiple voices that talk amongst themselves and voices that are discussing that individual’s behavior or actions.
Visual hallucinations occur when an individual sees people, objects lights and/or patterns that do not exist. These images can be frightening to the individual.
Tactile hallucinations occur when an individual feels something that is not there.  For example feeling fingers touching an individual when no one is around or feeling electricity moving through the individual’s body.
Olfactory hallucinations occur when an individual smells odors that are not existent and that no one else smells. Typically this perceived smell is an unpleasant odor.  Sometimes the individual believes that the smell is coming from them which can result in them feeling embarrassed.
Gustatory hallucinations occur when an individual tastes something that is not really there; this is typically an unpleasant flavor.

I have now given you a basic understanding of psychosis, what delusions and hallucinations look like, how they present themselves, etc.  I have worked with many clients in the past at my previous job who were dealing with delusions and hallucinations.  I have witnessed each and every type of delusion and hallucination through former clients.  While I am not comfortable sharing my clients stories even though it would be done in confidence, I will find personal stories out there that give you a better understanding of what psychosis really looks like.  I personally have experienced some psychosis and I will discuss that in detail in my next posting.  My experience with psychosis is somewhat limited; it only includes some delusional thinking (trust me that was more than enough)!  I feel that finding more stories to share with you will give you a better understanding of psychosis.  Psychosis is nothing to be scared of.  The words “psychosis” or “psychotic” has such a negative connotation to them. I want to prove otherwise! Expect some more on psychosis soon from a personalized perspective!

“Doubt is to certainty as neurosis is to psychosis. The neurotic is in doubt and has fears about persons and things; the psychotic has convictions and makes claims about them. In short, the neurotic has problems, the psychotic has solutions.” –Thomas Szasz

Thanks for reading! Until next time…

-Kissing Stigma Goodbye-

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