One of the things I’ve learned over the years of working in mental health is that any strange behaviour someone has is usually mislabelled as mental illness. The other common myth is that anyone with a mental illness is dangerous towards others. It’s important that we break these two myths as they stigmatise people who experience poor mental health and make it harder for them to ask for and get the help they need. To break these we need to understand different types of behaviours and symptoms and know how to get the help that’s needed.
This week I am going to talk about the symptoms of Psychosis. An episode of Psychosis usually involves one or more of these types of behaviours:
- Confused or impaired thinking which is observed as switching topics of conversation rapidly or making reference to out of context topics.
- False thoughts or delusions – these can be of paranoid ideas like someone is following you, grandiose or exaggerated sense of importance or a somatic thought that you have a terminal illness when you don’t.
- Auditory or visual hallucination’s
Of course these are the later stages when it becomes more noticeable. Earlier signs are a little more general and can include difficulties concentrating, a change in mood (low), increased agitation, anxiety, changes in your sleep patterns, being suspicious, withdrawing from people or experiencing unusual thoughts.
About 3% of the population experience psychosis. Onset is usually in late teens or early 20’s. For some people it will be triggered by a physical illness, for example dementia, stroke or epilepsy. For others there could be a genetic component or an environmental condition. Environmental triggers include illegal drug use, prolonged lack of sleep, or stressful events. Some people will experience prolonged symptoms and others will be shorter in duration. Some may experience psychosis a few times throughout their life while others more frequent. Regardless of the presentation there are treatment options available.
If you are on campus and concerned about someone who is showing some of these signs then you can make contact with a Health and Welfare Advisor or Student Support Advisor who will help you get your friend some help. You can find us in the Hunter Building across from the stairs to the Griffith Duncan Theatre if you want to walk over and drop in. If you are not sure if what you are noticing is something to worry about then why not use the Skype Drop-In times to talk with me about it and get some advice about what to do next. If you are off campus and worried about someone or yourself then give the NSW Mental Health Line a call and chat with them about what to do or see a GP or take your friend or family member to the local hospital for help. Don’t forget if it’s an emergency and you are worried about someone’s safety then call 000.
Remember that mental illness and in this case Psychosis doesn’t discriminate, it can happen to anyone regardless of age, weight, height, gender, sexual identity, religion or culture. It could happen to you, or someone you care about. Don’t be afraid to seek help or ask someone if you can help them get some help.