I started to grow lonely on my dorm. I had stopped going to classes and sat there all day, isolated from the outside world. Because of this total isolation, coupled with my depression, my psychosis has gradually crept in.


Did you know this?

The number of people with psychosis is estimated at 16 to 20 in 100,000. Especially young people between 14 and 30 years old can experience psychotic symptoms and/or develop psychosis. Psychosis affects as many men as women, yet typically starts three years earlier in men. Women more often experience a combination of psychotic symptoms and mood changes, whilst men suffer mostly from changes in motivation and thinking.

A different reality

People who go through a psychosis often find it difficult to distinguish between external stimuli and what takes place in their inner experience. Typical symptoms of psychosis include delusions and hallucinations:

  • Delusions are strong, often emotionally charged beliefs that collide with those of bystanders. Typical delusions are paranoia, megalomania and delusion of reference. The latter refers to the belief that certain events, like messages on the TV or radio, are meant especially for you.
  • Hallucinations are sensory perceptions without external stimuli, i.e. you hear, see, feel, taste or smells things that others don’t. Hearing voices is by far the most common hallucination. This can be one or more voices – whispering or shouting – that give positive or negative comments, advice and sometimes orders.

A person with psychotic symptoms is often also dealing with other issues complaints such as depression, bipolar disorder or difficulties with motivation, planning and study. Typically, there is a degree of confusion, like thinking too quickly, too slowly or very chaotically. People with psychosis may also move in a strange manner (e.g., running around in circles) or not move at all.

A psychotic spectrum

Symptoms differ from person to person. And for each person they can vary from week to week, or even moment to moment. That is why we speak of a psychotic spectrum.

A psychosis can be short-term and of a one-off nature, or return periodically. In both cases, it can be a very shocking and disturbing experience.

When people suffer from psychoses for a longer period of time, they are diagnosed with long-term psychosis, which used to be called schizophrenia. In contrast to what most people think, this does not mean you have a split personality. However, during psychotic episodes one loses contact with reality to a greater or lesser extent.

Psychosis sensitivity

Not everyone is equally vulnerable to psychosis. Vulnerability increases due to intense events, for example during childhood. Genetic predisposition plays a role, as well.
In addition, some other factors might trigger a psychosis, such as:

  • stress
  • medical conditions (e.g. brain tumour or epilepsy)
  • mental illness (e.g. depression or bipolar disorder)
  • fatigue and exhaustion

It is a misconception to believe that drugs can cause psychosis. It is true, however, that people who are already vulnerable to psychosis are at greater risk when using some types of drugs, such as cannabis.

Self-knowledge has been the key to me. And patience. At first, I needed a lot of help and guidance, but now this has been reduced to a minimum.


Talk about it

Are you worried about being vulnerable to psychosis? Then talk about it. This can cause huge relief and talking about it also helps to put things together. You can also find help together.

Have a conversation with someone who you feel comfortable with and trust, like a good friend, your parents, sister or brother.

If you struggle to talk to someone in your close surroundings, try to approach a person who is familiar with similar experiences, such as a GP or a student advisor at your college or university.

Do you prefer to share your story anonymously? At online eSpreekuur you can contact experts for all questions concerning psychosis sensitivity, medication and other concerns. You can also contact Awel (102 or via www.awel.be) or Tele-Onthaal (106 or via tele-onthaal.be). For questions about suicide, contact the Suicide Line (1813 or zelfmoord1813.be).

Seek help

With proper treatment, psychotic symptoms can be cured, which is why it's essential to seek professional help. Psychotherapy helps people to be aware of the first signs of psychosis, and to recognize and avoid triggering situations. Certain medication (antipsychotics) can be of help to attenuate and control psychotic symptoms.

In addition, healthy living habits are very important to avoid recurrence of the psychosis. A regular life and strict waking and sleeping rhythms are essential. Avoid stressful atmospheres, find ways to better cope with stress and do not use substances that may trigger psychosis.

Worried about someone?

Have you noticed a friend having psychotic symptoms and are worried about them? Then talk about it and share your concerns. Try to be understanding and to listen without judgement.

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