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UBC PATHS Blog Post: Mar 7, 2024

What is Psychosis? 

Psychosis is a set of symptoms that impact the mind and indicate a loss of connection with reality. During a psychotic episode, a person’s ideas and perceptions become distorted, and they may have difficulties distinguishing between what is genuine and what is not. According to studies, between 15 and 100 people out of 100,000 develop psychosis each year. It usually develops in young adulthood, when a person is in their late teens or mid-20s however, psychotic episodes can occur at any age and as a part of a variety of disorders and illnesses. For example, elderly persons with neurological disorders could be at a higher risk for psychosis. 


Symptoms of psychosis are usually heavily associated with experiencing delusions, hallucinations, and disturbed speech or thoughts. When experiencing symptoms of hallucination, individuals will perceive senses that do not exist outside of their mind, such as seeing shapes that don’t exist or hearing sounds that no one else can hear. As patients experience delusions, they are often firmly convinced that someone is trying to hurt them and remain in a state of paranoia. Symptoms of psychosis can also be observed through an individual’s speech, which is often disrupted and rapid, with topics jumping from one to another mid-sentence.


Psychosis is induced by a combination of factors, including genetic predisposition, brain abnormalities, developmental discrepancies, or exposures to stress and trauma. It can also be triggered by certain physical factors, such as the effects of a high fever, head injury, or lead/mercury poisoning. Symptoms can also be brought on by certain prescription medications or through the abuse of drugs or alcohol, in which case it is referred to as drug-related psychosis or toxic psychosis. In all, psychosis is normally brought on by a cocktail of predispositions and physical factors. 


Antipsychotics can usually reduce feelings of anxiety within a few hours of use, but they may take several days or weeks to reduce psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations or delusional thoughts. Antipsychotics can have side effects, although not everyone will experience them and their severity will differ from person to person. Side effects can include: drowsiness, shaking and trembling, weight gain, restlessness, muscle twitches and spasms – where your muscles shorten tightly and painfully, blurred vision, dizziness, constipation, loss of sex drive (libido), dry mouth.


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