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  • Amy Scholten, MPH
Publication Type:




Psychosis is loss of contact with reality. It may result in false beliefs called delusions or sensing things that are not really there (hallucinations).


Psychosis may be caused by changes in brain chemicals or structures. It can occur with:

The Brain.

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Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of psychosis are:

  • A family history of severe mental illness
  • Brain problems
  • Problems during pregnancy or birth
  • Loss of parent during childhood
  • Poor family functioning
  • Substance abuse


Symptoms can vary. They may include:

  • Hallucinations—hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, or feeling things that are not there
  • Delusions—unusual or false beliefs
  • Confusion
  • Sudden changes in mood or odd behavior


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. The doctor will ask about use of substances. This includes alcohol use, illegal drugs, medicines, supplements and herbs. A mental health exam will be done.

Blood and urine tests will be done. This is to check for substances or imbalances in the body.


Treatment of psychosis depends on the cause. Hospital care may be needed until the condition is managed. Options may be:

  • Counseling, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy—to help with coping
  • Family therapy—to help the family cope
  • Support groups—to talk to others with similar problems
  • Medicines, such as:
    • Antipsychotics—to reduce abnormal thinking
    • Antidepressants
    • Antianxiety medicines
    • Mood stabilizers


Preventing psychosis depends on the cause. Certain conditions raise the risk. Managing those conditions may reduce it.





  • Ahsan MS, Mullick MS, et al. Substance use among the patients with first episode psychosis. Mymensingh Med J. 2018;27(2):313-320.
  • First psychosis–approach to the patient. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/approach-to/first-episode-psychosis-approach-to-the-patient.
  • Psychosis. Centre for Addiction and Mental Health website. Available at: http://www.camh.ca/en/hospital/health_information/a_z_mental_health_and_addiction_information/psychosis/Pages/Psychosis.aspx.
  • Psychosis. National Alliance on Mental Illness website. Available at: https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Mental-Health-Conditions/Psychosis.
  • Psychosis. NHS Choices website. Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Psychosis/Pages/Introduction.aspx.
  • Psychosis. Rethink Mental Illness website. Available at: https://www.rethink.org/diagnosis-treatment/conditions/psychosis.


  • Adrian Preda, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.