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Symptoms of psychosis

3-minute read

Imagine if someone could read your mind, or penetrate your head and influence the way you think. This is what it feels like for many people with psychosis. Someone affected by psychosis has difficulty with the way they interpret the real world.

The symptoms of psychosis may include:

  • Confused thinking: thoughts don’t join up properly, causing confusion. A person’s thoughts may speed up or slow down, their sentences may be unclear and hard to understand, and they may have difficulty following a conversation.
  • Delusions: the person may hold beliefs that are not usual for someone of the same cultural background. This can take different forms, such as paranoia (thinking they are being watched or singled out for harm), grandiosity (believing they have special powers or are an important religious or political figure) or depressive (believing they are guilty of a terrible crime).
  • Hallucinations: the person may see, hear, feel, smell or taste something that doesn’t actually exist. Auditory hallucinations are the most common form: hearing voices or other sounds that are not there.
  • Disordered behaviour: the person might become agitated or childlike, they might mutter or swear, or they might not respond to others around them. They might find it hard to manage their day to day life, like looking after their personal hygiene.
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicidal thoughts: the person may have feelings of wanting to harm themselves. Significant suicidal risk is a medical emergency so please call triple zero (000) or go to the closest hospital emergency department.

Sometimes a person with psychosis can act inappropriately, such as laughing at sad news or becoming angry for no apparent reason. Associated agitation or apparent aggression can occur and must be managed under the supervision of a healthcare team to prevent harm to themsevles and others.

The symptoms of psychosis can be disturbing, affecting a person’s concentration, memory and ability to plan. Hallucinations may cause distress and agitation. People with psychosis may find it difficult to understand and communicate their feelings. Psychosis can cause people to feel apathetic, lack motivation and withdraw from contact with others. A simple task, such as washing up, can seem like a major event.

Treatment is available to help people with psychosis to manage their symptoms.

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

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