Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Causes of psychosis

3-minute read

The causes of psychosis are complex and researchers are still trying to understand them fully. However, psychosis is thought to be caused by an interaction between genetic and environmental factors. It's likely that some people are born with a predisposition to develop this kind of illness and that certain things - for example, stress or the use of drugs such as marijuana, LSD or speed — can trigger their first episode.

The main categories of causes of psychosis are:

  • Mental illness: Psychosis can be caused by a mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or severe depression.
  • Genetics: People with a family history of psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia have a slightly increased chance of developing psychosis. There is no single gene that causes psychosis, but a number of different genes may increase the likelihood of developing it.
  • Recreational drugs: Psychosis can be triggered by the use of drugs, including cannabis, amphetamines (including speed and ice), LSD (acid), magic mushrooms, ketamine, ecstasy and cocaine.

Can medical conditions cause psychosis?

Some medical conditions have been known to cause psychosis. These include:

There’s also research showing that too much dopamine may be associated with psychosis. Dopamine is one of the chemicals in the brain that sends information from one brain cell to another. Having high levels could interrupt the pathways in the brain responsible for memory, emotion, social behaviour and self-awareness.

Although the causes are still being uncovered, psychosis is treatable. With medicine and support, people with psychosis can recover from their illness.

Where to get help

If you need help, would like to find out more or talk to someone else, here are some organisations that can help:

  • SANE Australia (people living with a mental illness) — call 1800 187 263.
  • beyondblue (anyone feeling depressed or anxious) — call 1300 22 4636 or chat online.
  • Black Dog Institute (people affected by mood disorders) — online help.
  • Lifeline (anyone having a personal crisis) — call 13 11 14 or chat online.
  • Suicide Call Back Service (anyone thinking about suicide) — call 1300 659 467.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: November 2018

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Psychosis - myDr.com.au

When someone experiences psychosis they are unable to distinguish what is real. Symptoms include confused thinking, delusions and hallucinations.

Read more on myDr website

Cannabis psychosis - myDr.com.au

Use of cannabis can cause a condition called drug-induced psychosis.

Read more on myDr website

What is psychosis? | Psychotic disorders | ReachOut Australia

Find out what psychosis is and its possible causes, the symptoms of psychosis, the different types of psychosis, and what you can do if you experience a psychotic episode.

Read more on ReachOut.com website

Cannabis use - myDr.com.au

Cannabis can affect your physical and mental health with heavy cannabis use potentially causing psychosis.

Read more on myDr website

Psychosis

Psychosis is a mental disorder where a person loses the capacity to tell whats real from what isnt. They may believe or sense things that arent rea...

Read more on SANE Australia website

Postnatal psychosis

Postnatal psychosis (also known as postpartum or puerperal psychosis) is a rare mental health condition that affects a small number of women (one or two in every 1,000 mothers) in the first days or weeks after childbirth.

Read more on beyondblue website

Schizophrenia animation | HealthEngine Blog

Schizophrenia is a brain condition that causes hallucinations and psychosis. This video animation explains schizophrenia symptoms and treatment.

Read more on HealthEngine website

Postpartum psychosis

Postpartum psychosis is a serious mental illness that can develop in mothers soon after childbirth. If you think you might have it, see a doctor immediately.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Postnatal Psychosis

Support for postnatal psychosis, a serious mental health condition that affects one to two women in every 1000 after childbirth.

Read more on Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA) website

Puerperal (Postpartum) Psychosis COPE

Centre of Perinatal Excellence

Read more on COPE - Centre of Perinatal Excellence website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo