Psychosis is a serious brain illness. When you have psychosis, what you think is real is not the same as what other people think is real.
Some doctors think certain people are born with the possibility of getting psychosis. Some people are born with the same genetic risk but never get psychosis. The ones that do get psychosis have often experienced a “trigger” like a sad life event, injury, illness or street drug use.
Psychosis can occur in a variety of mental and physical illnesses – for example, it can occur in mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, depression, or schizophrenia; it may be drug-induced; or it can result from a brain injury. It is very important to get help as early as possible, as research indicates that the earlier intervention happens, the better the treatment outcome may be.
You may notice your child is acting oddly. They may be moody or get angry often. Their grades at school may go way down and they also may start spending more and more time alone. Family and friends may think they are just “going through a phase” or wonder if they’re using street drugs. If you think something is wrong, it’s always a good idea to have your child checked out by a doctor, just in case.
Signs and Symptoms
Later on, a young person with psychosis might begin to:
hear or see things that are not there
have strange beliefs they cannot be talked out of
become very suspicious or paranoid
act very differently than they did before
stop reacting to other people
speak in a way that does not make sense
seem to not be feeling anything
seem to have lost motivation to do things
seem to have lost interest in things that they used to enjoy
These are signs the brain is having problems. It’s important to see a doctor right away. Psychosis can harm the brain, so it needs to be caught as soon as possible.
How common is it?
about 3% of people have psychosis at some time in their life
most people have their first episode between the ages of 15 and 25
men and women have the same chance of getting psychosis
the risk is great if other family members have had psychosis
People with psychosis have a good chance of getting well if they get medical help early. Someone who might have psychosis should be checked out by a doctor or psychiatrist. Many areas in BC have Early Psychosis Intervention (EPI) programs that are an excellent resource for treatment and recovery.
learn ways to deal with stress, and keep stress low to help prevent the return of the illness
cognitive-behavioural therapy might be indicated to help with reality testing
support - having a brain illness can be hard and lonely. It helps to have caring people to talk to about it.
Tips for parents
Psychosis almost always needs medical treatment, but there are things parents can do. Help your child to:
Take part in light exercise or other activities they used to enjoy. It’s best to start with only one or two other people around.
Stay away from street drugs, so that the brain can heal and stay well.
Keep stress low and do things that help lower stress. Take a few minutes together to breathe slowly and deeply. Physical activity and healthy eating can help.
Getting enough sleep. If your child is having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, talk to the doctor.
Get well slowly and steadily. Your child may want to spend quiet time alone and may not talk or join in much. They might have trouble focusing or getting things done. While the brain is healing, it takes a while to be able to think clearly again and start to feel normal. Try to speak in short, simple sentences that are easier to understand. Be gentle and positive.
Eat healthy snacks. Keep food like cut up fruit and vegetables around.
The Early Psychosis Intervention (EPI) Program website promotes early detection, educates about psychosis and provides direction for seeking help. This website also has toolkits and information sheets in multiple languages.
LearningLinks is an online learning resource designed to enhance knowledge, skills and confidence in child and youth mental health to support the needs of health care professionals and improving access for children, youth and families to medical specialists with expertise in child and youth mental health in BC.
Includes presentations on: Brain plasticity in psychosis; Tips from the experts: Stories of self-management strategies from people living well with biploar disorder; What do your genes mean for your mental health?; Why do people with schizophrenia smoke more?
This is an agency of Provincial Health Services Authority, providing provincial tertiary mental health services to the citizens of British Columbia. Programs include: Adult Tertiary Psychiatry, Geriatric Psychiatry, Forensic Psychiatric Services, Child & Adolescent Mental Health, Women’s Reproductive Mental Health, as well as the Provincial Specialized Eating Disorders Program for children and youth located at the BC Children’s Hospital.
RBC Children’s Mental Health Project is RBC's cornerstone “health and wellness” pillar; RBC Children’s Mental Heath Project is a multi-year philanthropic commitment to support community-based and hospital programs that reduce stigma, provide early intervention and increase public awareness about children’s mental health issues.
Through a wide range of fundraising events and opportunities, The BC Children's Hospital Foundation is united with its donors by a single, simple passion - to improve the health and the lives of the young people who enter BC Children's Hospital every day.