Back to Top Understanding Psychosis - The Ottawa Hospital


Psychosis is a loss of touch with reality

Although the exact cause of psychosis is presently unknown, symptoms of psychosis are thought to develop when the activity of certain chemicals in the brain, known as neurotransmitters, becomes disturbed (for example, when too much of a specific neurotransmitter is active in a specific part of the brain). Psychosis may occur in a variety of mental and physical illnesses. Psychosis generally means that a person has lost the ability to recognize what is real and what isn’t. More specifically, people with psychosis may experience hallucinations (hearing, seeing, tasting, smelling and feeling things that others can’t and that are not present), delusions, (fixed, false beliefs) and disorganized thoughts or behaviour.

It can be harder for people experiencing an episode of psychosis to understand and interact with the world around them. Thinking often becomes more difficult or may not be logical or well organized. Feelings and moods may change rapidly. It is often very difficult to relate to others. As a result of such difficulties, many people begin to spend more time by themselves. They find it difficult to accomplish day-to-day tasks and may even stop doing things they once enjoyed.

Psychosis is treatable

Psychosis is treatable, and most people experience significant improvements with treatment. The sooner a person with psychosis gets treated, the better, because—although treatment at any stage can be effective—getting help early can result in a faster and more complete recovery.

When working with a person for the first time, the psychiatrist and the mental health team will do a mental health assessment and may recommend blood work or other tests. Following this, medications designed to restore the proper activity of various neurotransmitters, along with specific types of talk therapy, may be suggested. The mental health team will work with the person to identify and manage the types of stressors that may make the illness worse. They’ll also provide education and support and put the person in touch with other community resources.

We’re here to help!

Learning about, talking about and getting treatment for mental illness can help you or your loved one. You’re not alone! We’re here to help you get back on track.

Last updated on: December 14th, 2016