What is Psychosis?
Psychosis is a nonspecific term to describe a mental state in which an individual’s connection with reality is weakened or lost. Symptoms of psychosis include disturbances in perceptions, thoughts, moods, and behaviors.
Sensory hallucinations may occur in any of the senses. Hallucinations occur when an individual perceives a stimulus when no stimulus is present (e.g., hearing voices when no one is there or seeing things that aren’t real). In contrast, illusions occur when individuals misperceives a stimulus when there actually was one (e.g., misperceiving a piece of lint for a spider).
Delusions may also occur. Delusions are illogical and sometimes bizarre beliefs (or system of beliefs) even in the presence of refuting evidence (e.g., believing one is God or believing one’s food is being poisoned). Delusional systems or delusional themes can develop that are complex and elaborate. During a psychotic episode, there may be disorganized, illogical speech and behaviors.
Other symptoms of psychosis include social withdrawal (isolating), apathy, alexithymia (i.e., inability to describe emotions), blunting of affect (i.e., minimal emotional expression), inappropriate behaviors (e.g. standing in one position for long periods of time), avolition (i.e., no motivation or lack of goal-directed behavior), depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbances.
It is important to note that symptoms of Psychosis are traditionally separated into positive symptoms (hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized speech/behaviors) and negative symptoms (avolition, social withdrawal, depressed mood, apathy, blunting of affect, and/or catatonia).