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Definition:

Psychosis is a loss of contact with reality, usually including false ideas about what is taking place or who one is (delusions) and seeing or hearing things that aren't there (hallucinations).



Alternative Names:

Psychotic



Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

Psychosis is a severe mental condition in which there is a loss of contact with reality. There are many possible causes:



Symptoms:
  • Abnormal displays of emotion
  • Confusion
  • Depression and sometimes suicidal thoughts
  • Disorganized thought and speech
  • Extreme excitement (mania)
  • False beliefs (delusions)
  • Loss of touch with reality
  • Mistaken perceptions (illusions)
  • Seeing, hearing, feeling, or perceiving things that are not there (hallucinations)
  • Unfounded fear/suspicion


Signs and tests:

Psychological evaluation and testing are used to diagnose the cause of the psychosis.

Laboratory and x-ray testing may not be needed, but sometimes can help pinpoint the exact diagnosis. Tests may include:



Treatment:

Treatment depends on the cause of the psychosis. Care in a hospital is often needed to ensure the patient's safety.

Antipsychotic drugs, which reduce "hearing voices" (auditory hallucinations) and delusions, and control thinking and behavior are helpful. Group or individual therapy can also be useful.



Support Groups:



Expectations (prognosis):

How well a person will do depends on the specific disorder. Long-term treatment can control many of the symptoms.



Complications:

Psychosis can prevent people from functioning normally and caring for themselves. If the condition is left untreated, people can harm themselves or others.



Calling your health care provider:

Call your health care provider or mental health professional if a member of your family acts as though they have lost contact with reality. If there is any concern about safety, immediately take the person to the nearest emergency room to be checked.



Prevention:

Prevention depends on the cause. For example, avoiding alcohol abuse prevents alcohol-induced psychosis.



References:

International Early Psychosis Association Writing Group. International clinical practice guidelines for early psychosis. Br J Psychiatry. 2005;187:s120-s124.

Addington D, Bouchard RH, Goldberg J, Honer B, Malla A, Norman R, Tempier R. Clinical practice guidelines: treatment of schizophrenia. Can J Psychiatry. 2005;50:7S-57S.




Review Date: 2/6/2008
Reviewed By: Christos Ballas, M.D., Attending Psychiatrist, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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