Psychosis is the term that is used to refer to experiences such as hearing or seeing things that others are not, or holding strong beliefs that others do not share. Psychosis is sometimes referred to as a ‘nervous breakdown’ or ‘madness’ and individuals who have experienced psychosis that have come into contact with mental health services may receive a diagnosis of ‘schizophrenia’ or ‘schizoaffective disorder’. Some of these terms are contentious and you may find one or more of them helpful to a great or lesser extent. Irrespective of the terminology that others may use to describe these experiences, at Psychology Sussex we will work with you, using whatever terminology you are comfortable with, in order to help you with whatever it is that is distressing you particularly.
Psychosis can often happen as a reaction to drug use and can also occur post-partum. It is now increasingly being understood that individuals who have a history of trauma are significantly more likely to experience psychosis than others.
Many people hear voices, have other auditory experiences or see things which others don’t – this is not an indication of some form of ‘illness’ – indeed we are all familiar with the experience of hearing our own internal narrative or our mind playing ticks on us. For many people, these experiences do not cause a significant degree of distress and for many others their voices can be helpful.
However, for some, the things that they see or hear can cause significant distress. Their voices may be persecutory, distracting, or sound like a bully. Sometimes these can take the form of a constant commentary of one or more voices – who may sound like people we know in the present, or from our past, or indeed may be unfamiliar to us – commenting on what we do and what kind of person we are. Similarly, for others, the images they see may be violent or particularly distressing in nature.
The experience of psychosis can also evoke other sensations such as tasting, smelling or feeling physical sensations when there is no obvious trigger for these – or others do not agree about the existence of these sources. These experiences are sometimes referred to collectively as hallucinations. Nevertheless, for the person experiencing them they are acutely real.
Sometimes others can have beliefs that others don’t share. These may be for example, the belief that one is being talked about on the radio or television, that ones thoughts can be read or that others, maybe certain organisations, are in a conspiracy against you.
It is important to say that the above provides a rough guide to the set of experiences that are collectively referred to as psychosis however no two people’s experiences will be the same. Every person has their own unique perspective and ways of coping with their experiences. At Psychology Sussex we do not judge the perspectives of others or their ways of managing distress, however we are here to help you if you are struggling to cope with the distress these experiences may cause.
The mainstay treatment for psychosis in mental health services is often medication which some individuals find very helpful. For others, however, the side-effects associated with these medications are particularly unpleasant and others may find that the medications offered only compound the problems they were previously having.
At Psychology Sussex, we have practitioners who have specialised in working with clients experiencing psychosis and do so in a non-judgemental, compassionate way. We are also experienced in offering a systemic approach to psychosis meaning that, so long as you are happy to do so, we would welcome family members, friends and anyone else who may be supporting you to attend sessions with you. This kind of approach means that we can garner the support around you that you need. We are also used to working in collaboration with other services – whether these be your GP or support you may be receiving from NHS services – and so we are happy to work alongside other professionals, should this be something you are comfortable with.
If you would like to discuss our specialist psychosis support team then do not hesitate to contact now to speak to one of our team about how it is Psychology Sussex may be able to help you.