When someone is having a psychotic episode, they have difficulty with the way they interpret the real world.
Symptoms vary from person to person and from episode to episode. They may include:
- disordered thinking: thoughts don’t join up properly, causing confusion. A person’s thoughts and speech may speed up or slow down, their sentences may be unclear and hard to understand, and they may have difficulty following a conversation or remembering things
- delusions: the person may hold beliefs that are unusual 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 themselves and others.
Treatment is available to help people with psychosis to manage their symptoms.
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: November 2020