Psychosis is a serious, but treatable medical condition affecting the brain. It usually first appears in a person’s late teens or early 20s.

Psychosis refers to a loss of contact with reality and can dramatically change a person’s thoughts, beliefs, perceptions, mood and/or behaviours. When people can’t tell the difference between what is real and what is not, it is called a psychotic episode.

A first episode of psychosis is often very frightening, confusing and distressing for the individual and their family and friends because it’s an unfamiliar experience.

Signs and symptoms

  • Changes in thinking patterns: Difficulty with concentration, following conversations or remembering things. Thoughts may be jumbled and may not make sense.
  • Unusual or false beliefs: False beliefs are called delusions. A person is convinced of their belief and logical arguments cannot change their mind e.g. being followed by someone or monitored by cameras.
  • Changes in perception: People may hear, see, smell, taste or feel something that’s not actually there. These changes in perception are called hallucinations.
  • Changes in feelings and mood: A person my feel unusually excited, depressed or anxious. They may also feel and express little emotion.
  • Changes in behaviour: People may behave differently then they usually do. They may laugh inappropriately or get upset. Sleeping and eating patterns may also be disrupted.


Psychosis can be treated and many people make a good recovery. It’s important to get help as soon as possible with a thorough assessment completed by mental health professionals.

Treatment may be either in an outpatient setting or in hospital. It usually consists of medication and psychosocial interventions. Followup and compliance with treatment are crucial to ensure good outcomes.

There are many supports available for family members and significant others.