Frequently Asked Questions
If you have already been diagnosed with a mental illness that includes symptoms of psychosis, you are probably thinking about what effect this will have on your life going forward. Here are some answers to questions young adults commonly ask when dealing with the ultimate question of: “What does this all mean for me?”
1. What does this mean for school or my job?
If you are having trouble concentrating at school or on the job, and find it more difficult to accomplish your daily goals, it may mean that you are showing early signs of psychosis. The sooner you tell someone you trust and get checked out by a professional, the quicker you will get better. Putting off the visit to a counselor may allow time for things to get worse.
It is okay to need time off from school or work, especially if your symptoms are overwhelming and interfere with your functioning. A great idea is to take time off to learn about your illness and learn how to cope with the changes you are experiencing in your body and mind.
Find out how you can get time off from school by talking to your parent(s), a school counselor, or a professor you trust. Many times, schools will make allowances for work to be turned in at a later date, especially if the student is sick in any way that interferes with their ability to focus on classroom lectures and homework assignments.
If you work, go to the Human Resources Department at your workplace, ask how you can get time off, and take it! Get the help you need, and then see when it would be a good time to go back to work. If you are struggling with an illness, it will be much harder to meet expectations in the workplace.
2. Does this mean I have to go live at home or in a home?
No, having signs of psychosis does not mean that you have to live at home or in a home, but these might be options you want to consider, even if just for a little while. Consider how you are going to be able to pay for a place to live, especially if you are taking time off from work. If your family members or other community members can help you out, why not consider this a possibility? This way, you would be able to save money, and if you tend to isolate, being around others may help you get better faster. Being alone is okay sometimes, but being alone too much can have a negative impact on your mental health.
3. What does this mean for my partner? Should I still be thinking of having children?
You and your partner will both benefit from learning all you can about mental illness involving psychosis. The more both of you know, the better supports you can be for each other and for your children.
Also, having psychosis does not mean that you cannot have children, but you should still plan ahead. If you are still having a lot of symptoms and stress, this may not be good for a child in utero. Stress creates a hormone called cortisol, which is not good for babies during their development.
If your symptoms are under control, and you want children, then you can have them, but make sure you talk to your doctor first! You will definitely want to learn about what kind of medicines you are taking and what effect they might have on pregnancy. Some medicines are gentle, but some others may be known to cause birth defects, so make sure you plan ahead, and talk to your doctor about what you can do to have a happy and healthy pregnancy.
4. What do I tell friends?
Telling friends can be challenging because some friends will be trustworthy and supportive, while other may not be. Use your judgment when talking to friends about your illness. At first, you may feel the need to tell your friends everything, but you might consider that it is better not to tell everything to everybody. Tell people about it on a need to know basis.
When you have learned some coping skills, it could be very positive to teach your trustworthy friends how they can be supportive. Friends can be supportive by listening without judging, or calling a parent or counselor if they do not know what to do.
5. Is this progressive? Will it get worse?
There is no way to predict the exact course of your illness, because as scientists, we do not yet have enough information to make these judgments. It is possible that your illness could get worse, but not necessarily. The best thing you can do for yourself is get help early. Our early intervention project is designed to prevent the worsening of symptoms by help you early in the stages of illness.
6. Will I have this forever?
Again, there is no way to predict the exact trajectory of your symptoms. For some people, this is a one-time deal, and others continue to cope and manage any residual symptoms that do not go away completely with treatment, either with medication, therapy, or both. Have hope! Many people in the world function in school and at a job, even if they have symptoms of psychosis. Some people have symptoms, but if they did not tell you about it, you may never know. It is entirely possible to live a happy and fulfilling life, in the midst of dealing with the symptoms of a mental illness. The most important thing you can do to prevent long term challenges is to get the help you need early in the onset of your illness.
Center for Early Detection, Assessment & Response to Risk