Psychosis & Addiction Explained
Most people may believe they know what psychosis is, but in fact it is one of the most misunderstood conditions in all of medicine – thanks in part to its frequent misrepresentation in the media.
What Is Psychosis?
Psychosis is an abnormal condition of the mind causing confusion in an affected person’s perception of reality and their ability to discern what is, and what is not, real. This may manifest in hallucinations (visual and, especially, auditory) and delusions which can lead a psychotic person to believe they are experiencing a completely different reality, and to act accordingly in response to that perceived reality in ways which can have catastrophic results in actual reality.
Understandably, this can make life extremely challenging for someone suffering from psychosis (and for those around them); even comparatively minor cases can make carrying out daily activities and interacting with others very difficult, while more severe cases can result in a total inability to lead a normal life, and may require the psychotic person’s hospitalisation for their own safety and that of others.
Various different types of psychosis have been identified, and although the symptoms of the condition are generally the same across these different types (though specifically how they manifest can be very different from one case to another) treatment methods may vary significantly by type.
What Causes Psychosis?
A great many factors are recognised as having the potential to cause psychosis. Trauma is an especially prominent risk factor: some 65% of psychotic individuals have experienced some type of childhood trauma, whilst traumatic life events experienced as an adult can also contribute to the development of psychosis.
Mental illness is also a key contributor. Some psychiatric causes of psychosis include: schizophrenia; affective disorders such as bipolar disorder and major depression; schizoaffective disorder (a combination of schizophrenia and mood disorders); delusional disorder; chronic hallucinatory psychosis; post-traumatic stress disorder; obsessive-compulsive disorder; and dissociative disorders. Stress is known to have the potential to trigger psychotic states.
As well as pregnancy and its after-effects, a great many medical conditions can also cause psychosis, including (but certainly not limited to) neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease; stroke; brain tumours; infectious diseases including HIV/AIDS; malnutrition; poisoning; parasitic diseases; sleep disorders; and traumatic head injuries.
Crucially, psychosis can also be triggered by substance abuse and addiction.
Psychosis as an Addiction Symptom
Many psychoactive substances have been identified as either causing or exacerbating psychosis; those considered particularly problematic include alcohol, cannabis, stimulants (including cocaine) and psychedelic drugs such as LSD. Substance-induced psychosis is not typically viewed as a symptom of addiction, per se, but rather a potential consequence of repeated use (which of course is itself one aspect of addiction). However, psychosis has also been observed to manifest during withdrawal from certain substances, which of course implies dependency on the part of the user.
What Are the Types of Psychosis?
Various different types of psychosis have been identified, including (but not limited to) stimulant psychosis; tardive psychosis; supersensitivity psychosis; postpartum psychosis; menstrual psychosis; monothematic delusions; myxedematous psychosis; and cycloid psychosis.
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What Are the Symptoms of Psychosis?
Some common symptoms of psychosis include hallucinations (both auditory and visual); delusions (including feelings of persecution); disorganised speech and/or thinking (rapidly switching topics, incomprehensible speech); disorganised motor behaviour (repetitive, possibly bizarre movements of the body); catatonia; decreased motivation and emotional expression; and anhedonia. In response to hallucinations and delusions in particular, some psychotics commit acts of violence against themselves and/or others, though this does not occur in every case.
How Is Psychosis Diagnosed?
After other causes have been ruled out, psychosis may be diagnosed by a mental health clinician, with symptoms assessed against various formalised rating scales. Five factors typically sought in a psychosis diagnosis are hallucinations, delusions, disorganisation, excitement and emotional distress.
How Is Psychosis Treated?
Treatment of psychosis depends on what specific condition has been diagnosed (for example, bipolar disorder may be treated differently from stimulant psychosis). Antipsychotic medication is now the foundation of most treatment, though psychotherapy and counselling are also deployed. Serious cases typically require hospitalisation, sometimes long-term.
Ready to get Help for Your Addiction?
If you are suffering from an addiction and are displaying psychotic symptoms, you need to get help urgently, in order to treat both the psychosis and the underlying substance abuse disorder.
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Many facilities across the UK have great expertise in treating both addiction and psychosis. Speak with your GP and/or an addiction specialist today to find out which such facilities may be most appropriate for you.
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Psychosis can be a terrible and terrifying condition – and addiction may be no less so. Take back control of your life and begin the journey back to happiness by calling your GP and/or an addiction specialist today.
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