What Is Psychosis?
‘Psychosis’ is an illness that usually starts around ages 12 to 25. Researchers think that it is caused by genetics, environmental exposure to toxins, or both. Seeing or hearing things that are not there, believing what seems odd or untrue, or feeling confused when trying to think or speak are some of the ways this illness can make life difficult.
There are a lot more people than you think that that have had symptoms of psychosis. In fact, 10% to 25% of young people report that they have experienced at least one in their lifetime. More and more people that have these experiences are getting help early so that they can continue to hang out with friends, go out on dates, raise kids, and find work they want to do. These individuals manage their symptoms well and do not wait to get help when they see early signs of a developing problem, such as…
· Hearing or seeing things that are not really there
· Believing things that may not be true (like: “the
FBI is watching me”)
· Having jumbled thoughts or words so that it is hard to talk
· Difficulty paying attention
· Difficulty telling the difference between what is real or unreal
· Suddenly struggling with school or work that used to be easy
· Feeling uncomfortable around friends you used to hang out with
· Avoiding family and people that you were normally close to
· Big changes in how you dress, bathe, or groom yourself
· Losing interest in the things you used to do with
friends (e.g., movies, sports, shopping)
· Picking up new, perhaps unusual interests that you do alone
What Psychosis is Not
Unfortunately, a lot of people misunderstand the meaning of the word ‘psychosis’. Too many movies use the word to describe people that are scary looking, dangerous, or constantly changing their personalities! This is frustrating for people who actually have psychosis because movies mostly get it all wrong. People with psychosis
· Do not look a certain way
· Are no more dangerous than anyone else
· Do not have multiple personalities
Unfortunately, people tend to believe what they see in the movies because they have never actually met someone with psychosis. When they do meet a real person with real experience, they are often surprised to find someone who looks normal and likes to do the things that most people like to do, such as going shopping, playing sports, eating good food, and being with friends. Like most people, they also tend to like being respected and accepted for who they are.
Here are two examples of real people that have lived with psychosis and successfully managed it.
Erica is 35 years old and works as a journalist for a newspaper website called MailOnline. Her passions are swimming, going on walks, and spending time with her partner. Her favorite things to write about are fashion and travel.
When Erica was 19, she began having strange worries that people were trying to spy on her. This belief became so intense that she could no longer write, think, or be around her friends. Eventually, her mother took her to a psychiatrist, who recommended rest and some medicine to address what appeared to be early symptoms of psychosis. Erica followed the psychiatrist’s advice. Most importantly, she took some time off and gave herself time to reboot.
With the support of close friends, and especially her mother, Erica was back to writing for fashion magazines and travel logs within a year. This time, she had a new favorite topic: the need for public understanding of psychosis. Today, Erica uses her talents as a successful journalist to advocate for people with serious mental illness. You can find out more about her at https://ericacamus.wordpress.com/.
Michael Hedrick is 29 years old. He is a novelist, who writes regularly for the New York Times on the topics of mental illness and wellness. Michael attended the University of Colorado at Boulder from 2004 to 2006, and still lives in Boulder where one of his favorite pasttimes is hiking in the surrounding woods.
Michael first noticed himself becoming suspicious of his friends and what they thought of him when he was 20 years old. That same year, he began smoking marijuana and drinking heavily to drown out voices in his head that were telling him that he was a bad person. Later that year, he became convinced that he had a plan for world peace and traveled all the way to the United Nations to annnounce his plan to foreign diplomats. When he arrived in New York he found the UN closed and ended up being homeless.
Michael’s turning point came a few years later when he was picked up for a DUI. The experience convinced him to make some serious changes. He gave up drugs, began eating better, improving his sleep routine, and started taking medicine on a consistent basis.
Importantly, Michael also started reaching out to people at a local coffee house, where he made a few friends, and even risked dating again. Michael’s writings about life as a young man dealing with psychosis and social life have made him a popular read on the internet. You can find out more about him at http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/author/michael-hedrick/