Psychosis is a mental health problem that causes people to perceive or interpret things differently from those around them. This might involve hallucinations or delusions.
Experiencing the symptoms of psychosis is often referred to as having a psychotic episode. The combination of hallucinations and delusional thinking can often severely disrupt perception, thinking, emotion and behaviour.
Psychosis isn’t a condition in itself – it’s triggered by other conditions. It’s sometimes possible to identify the cause of psychosis as a specific mental health condition, such as:
- schizophrenia – a condition that causes a range of psychological symptoms, including hallucinations and delusions
- bipolar disorder – a mental health condition that affects mood; a person with bipolar disorder can have episodes of depression (lows) and mania (highs)
- severe depression – some people with depression also have symptoms of psychosis when they’re very depressed
Psychosis can also be triggered by traumatic experiences, stress or physical conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, a brain tumour, or as a result of drug misuse or alcohol misuse.
How often a psychotic episode occurs and how long it lasts can depend on the underlying cause. For example, schizophrenia can be long-term, but most people can make a good recovery, and about a quarter only have a single psychotic episode. Episodes related to bipolar disorder usually resolve, but may reoccur.