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Psychosis

Psychosis

Definition

Psychosis is the loss of contact with reality. It may result in false beliefs called delusions or sensing things that are not really there (hallucinations).

Causes

Psychosis may be caused by changes in chemicals and/or structures of the brain. Some conditions associated with psychosis include:

  • Psychological conditions such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, severe depression, and some personality disorders
  • Medical conditions such as HIV and AIDS, malaria, brain infections, some metabolic or neurologic conditions, including Alzheimer and Parkinson disease
  • Some medications, or abuse of alcohol or drugs such as cocaine, LSD, and methamphetamines
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Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chance of psychosis include:

  • A family history of severe mental illness
  • Brain abnormalities
  • Complications during pregnancy or birth
  • Loss of parent during childhood
  • Poor family functioning
  • Substance abuse

Symptoms

Symptoms can vary but may include:

  • Hallucinations—hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, or feeling things that are not actually there
  • Delusions—unusual or false beliefs
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Sudden changes in mood or bizarre behavior

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Information about alcohol use, illegal drugs, prescription medications, supplements, and herbs will also be collected. A psychiatric evaluation will be done.

Bodily fluids may be tested to look for the presence of substances that can cause problems or to look for imbalance in the body. This can be done with:

  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests

Treatment

Treatment will depend on the cause of your psychosis. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Hospitalization may be needed until the psychosis is managed. Options may include one or more of the following:

Prevention

Prevention depends on the cause of psychosis. Those at risk for psychosis may be able to prevent a psychotic episode with careful management of related condition.

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