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Psychosis is a serious but treatable medical condition that reflects a disturbance in brain functioning. A person with psychosis experiences some loss of contact with reality, characterized by changes in their way of thinking, believing, perceiving, and/or behaving. For the person experiencing psychosis, the condition can be very disorienting and distressing. Without effective treatment, psychosis can overwhelm the lives of individuals and families.

A person with psychosis may:
1.    Experience confused thoughts
2.    Feel their thoughts have sped up or slowed down
3.    Feel preoccupied with unusual ideas
4.    Believe that others can manipulate their thoughts; or that they can manipulate the thoughts of others
5.    Perceive voices or visions that no one else can hear or see
6.    Feel “changed” in some way
7.    Act differently than they usually would

Sometimes psychosis emerges gradually over time, so that in the early stages symptoms might be dismissed or ignored. Other times, symptoms appear suddenly and are very obvious to the individual and those around them. Symptoms vary from person to person and can change over time. The initial experience of psychotic symptoms is known as the “first episode” of psychosis.
It is important to pay attention to possible symptoms and seek help early.

1.    Is a common medical condition affecting 3% of the population
2.    Results from a disruption in brain functioning
3.    Can radically alter a person’s thoughts, beliefs, perceptions and behaviour
4.    Affects males and females equally
5.    Tends to emerge during adolescence and young adulthood
6.    Is more likely to occur in families with a history of serious mental illness
7.    Can be effectively treated

If you suspect psychosis, don’t ignore it. Treatment is most effective when it is started early. With proper treatment, most people recover fully from the first episode of psychosis. For many, the first episode is also the last.

Acknowledgement: Excerpts from the “What is Psychosis?” brochure produced by the Youth and Mental Illness: Early Intervention Project, an initiative of the CMHA National Office.

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