What is Psychosis?
‘Psychosis’ is an illness affecting the structures and chemicals of the brain that enable us to experience emotions, make judgments, and perceive the world around us. The three most common problems associated with this illness are hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not there), delusions (beliefs that are odd or untrue), and disorganization (becoming confused and fragmented when attempting to think or speak). Other symptoms include fearfulness, difficulty making decisions, strong sensitivity to light and noise, problems paying attention, and emotional distress.
Psychotic experiences are actually fairly common. About 10-25% of youth and young adults report having at least one such experience in their lifetime, but in most cases these are mild and do not last very long. For 1 out of 50 youths, these experiences become sufficiently intense, frequent or long-lasting and interfere with daily routines and well-being.
Problematic psychosis tends to appear between the ages of 12 to 25. These are the ages when youth grow from being dependent on adults to assuming responsibility for making life decisions, taking care of one self and, eventually, taking care of others. Supporting a young person with psychosis is particularly challenging because the illness sometimes requires that he or she be heavily dependent on family and friends. Meanwhile, the people providing the support have to balance that individual’s need for support with his and her developmental need for independence. Sometimes it can be hard to know what to do.