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Psychosis is the name used in psychiatry for a number of conditions. People who suffer from psychosis are said to be psychotic. Usually, psychotic people lose touch with reality, they have trouble telling what is real and what is not. It is an extreme kind of altered state of consciousness.

The word psychosis has two parts. The first part comes from psyche, which means soul in Ancient Greek. The second part is the ending '-osis', which means illness or unnatural condition. So literally, psychosis means unnatural condition of the soul.

People with psychosis may have hallucinations, which means they can experience things that are not really there. They may also have delusions, which are fixed beliefs and ideas that are usually false. Sometimes their personality changes, and they cannot think straight. Some of these thoughts may be paranoid. Not every psychotic person has all of these problems.

Because of these, psychotics often act in strange ways, which also makes it difficult for them to live a normal life as part of society. They often have trouble with making friends, as most people do not understand them.

Psychosis can affect people to different levels. Some people can continue with mostly normal lives, while other people will need medical help.

About 1 percent of people suffer from psychosis during their lives.[source?]

There are many things that can make someone seem psychotic. These include poisons, drugs, diseases of the nervous system, and other illnesses. For this reason, some people use the image of a fever of the central nervous system to talk about psychosis - a serious illness that may not have a very detailed explanation.[1][2]

Many people have gone through unusual experiences that they believe are real. Hallucinations connected to religion or paranormal experiences seem to be quite common.[3][4] Very often, these experiences cannot be called psychosis in a medical sense of the word. For this reason, some people have said that psychosis may simply be an extreme case of something that is experienced by most.[5] People who have suffered from what could be called psychosis may simply have had experiences that were very strong or distressing.

In movies and the media in general, certain people who are shown as violent and antisocial are sometimes labelled psychotic. This image of psychosis is wrong, the people shown are usually psychopaths or sociopaths, they usually do not have hallucinations or delusions.

Psychosis is most associated with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, drug addiction and brain damage but it can be caused by a wide range of conditions.


Psychosis is not a disease but rather a name for a number of symptoms, that can be caused by different diseases and conditions. Very broadly speaking there are two types of causes for psychosis:

  1. In some cases, psychosis can be directly linked to a cause. Some of the causes are:
  2. There are certain cases of people who suffer from psychosis, where no cause for the psychosis is clear. In these cases, the causes are usually not known. Current research suggests that some of these psychoses may be linked to genetic factors, or due to certain events during the pregnancy of the mother, or the early childhood of the person suffering from psychosis. The first episode of psychosis may be triggered by stress.


Most psychoses can be treated, so that those suffering from them can lead a normal life. The treatment depends on the cause of the psychosis. In general, there are two different forms of treatment available:


  1. Tsuang, Ming T.; William S. Stone, Stephen V. Faraone (July 2000). "Toward Reformulating the Diagnosis of Schizophrenia". American Journal of Psychiatry 157 (7): 1041–1050. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.157.7.1041 . PMID 10873908 .
  2. DeLage, J. (February 1955). "[Moderate psychosis caused by mumps in a child of nine years.]". Laval Médical 20 (2): 175–183. PMID 14382616 .
  3. Tien AY (December 1991). "Distributions of hallucinations in the population". Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 26 (6): 287–92. PMID 1792560 .
  4. van Os J, Hanssen M, Bijl RV, Ravelli A (September 2000). "Strauss (1969) revisited: a psychosis continuum in the general population?". Schizophr. Res. 45 (1-2): 11–20. PMID 10978868 .
  5. Johns, Louise C.; Jim van Os (2001). "The continuity of psychotic experiences in the general population". Clinical Psychology Review 21 (8): 1125–41. doi:10.1016/S0272-7358(01)00103-9 . PMID 11702510 . Retrieved 2006-08-19.
  6. Tien AY, Anthony JC (August 1990). "Epidemiological analysis of alcohol and drug use as risk factors for psychotic experiences". J. Nerv. Ment. Dis. 178 (8): 473–80. PMID 2380692 .
  7. Sharma, Verinder; Dwight Mazmanian (April 2003). "Sleep loss and postpartum psychosis". Bipolar Disorders 5 (2): 98–105. doi:10.1034/j.1399-5618.2003.00015.x . PMID 12680898 . Retrieved 2006-09-27.
  8. Chan-Ob, T.; V. Boonyanaruthee (September 1999). "Meditation in association with psychosis". Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand 82 (9): 925–930. PMID 10561951 .
  9. Devillieres, P.; M. Opitz, P. Clervoy, and J. Stephany (May-June 1996). "[Delusion and sleep deprivation]". L'Encéphale 22 (3): 229–31.
  10. Ohayon, M. M.; R. G. Priest, M. Caulet, and C. Guilleminault (October 1996). "Hypnagogic and hypnopompic hallucinations: pathological phenomena?". British Journal of Psychiatry 169 (4): 459–67. doi:10.1192/bjp.169.4.459 . PMID 8894197 . Retrieved 2006-10-21.