A teenage girl with a headache rubs her forehead while sitting at the edge of her bedPsychosis is a mental health condition that affects the way your brain processes information. It causes you to lose touch with reality. You might see, hear or believe things that aren’t real. Psychosis is a symptom, not an illness. A mental or physical illness, substance abuse or extreme stress or trauma can cause it.

Understanding psychosis is crucial as it affects not only those experiencing it but also their families and friends. This article will explore the types of psychosis, its symptoms, cause and duration, and discuss the stages of psychosis.

What is Psychosis?

Psychosis is characterized by an impaired relationship with reality. It’s a symptom of serious mental disorders. People who are experiencing psychosis may have either hallucinations or delusions.

  • Hallucinations are sensory experiences that appear real but are created by your mind. They can affect all five of your senses. For example, you might hear voices or see things that aren’t there.
  • Delusions, on the other hand, are false beliefs that are not based in reality and are held despite evidence to the contrary, such as thinking you’re being followed or that you have extraordinary powers.

Types of Psychosis

Psychosis is not a disease in its own right, but rather a symptom of other conditions. The main types of psychosis include:


The most well-known psychotic disorder, schizophrenia is characterized by a range of cognitive, behavioral and emotional dysfunctions. Patients may suffer from hallucinations, delusions and disorganized thinking and speech.

Schizoaffective disorder

This type of psychosis includes symptoms of schizophrenia along with mood disorder symptoms, such as depression or mania.

Brief psychotic disorder

This is a short-term type of psychosis that can last for a day but no longer than a month. It’s often brought on by extreme stress or trauma.

Delusional disorder

Individuals with delusional disorder experience non-bizarre delusions (situations that could occur in real life, like being followed, poisoned, infected, loved at a distance or deceived by a spouse or lover) without any other psychotic symptoms.

Bipolar I disorder

This is a mood disorder previously known as manic depression. It can include psychotic symptoms during manic or depressive episodes.

Major depressive disorder with psychotic features

Also known as psychotic depression, this is when a person has severe depression plus some form of psychosis, such as having disturbing false beliefs or a break with reality (delusions) or hearing or seeing upsetting things that others cannot hear or see (hallucinations).

Substance-induced psychosis

Drug or alcohol misuse can lead to psychosis. The symptoms can be similar to those of other types of psychosis.

Symptoms of Psychosis

The symptoms of psychosis can be very distressing and can include:

  • Hallucinations: Hearing voices, seeing things that aren’t there or feeling sensations on your skin even though there is nothing there.
  • Delusions: Strongly held beliefs that are not supported by evidence, or feeling suspicious without reason.
  • Disorganized Thinking: Thoughts are jumbled and disconnected, leading to incoherent speech.
  • Disorganized or Abnormal Motor Behavior: This may show in a number of ways, from childlike silliness to unpredictable agitation.
  • Negative Symptoms: This refers to reduced or a lack of ability to function normally. For example, the person may neglect personal hygiene or appear to lack emotion (doesn’t make eye contact, doesn’t change facial expressions or speaks in a monotone).

What Causes Psychosis?

The exact cause of psychosis isn’t known, but several factors are believed to contribute:

  • Mental health conditions: Such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder and bipolar disorder.
  • Trauma: Whether physical or emotional, such as death of a loved one, a traumatic accident or extreme levels of stress, can lead to psychosis.
  • Substance abuse: Using or withdrawing from drugs and alcohol can trigger psychosis.
  • Physical illnesses: Some conditions like brain tumors, brain infections and strokes can cause psychosis.
  • Genetics: A family history of psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia, can increase the risk.

How Long Does Psychosis Last?

The duration of psychosis can vary:

  • Brief Psychotic Disorder: This can last a few days up to a month.
  • Schizophreniform Disorder: This includes symptoms of schizophrenia but lasts less than 6 months.
  • Schizophrenia: In contrast, schizophrenia is a long-term illness. Some people have only one episode; others have many episodes during a lifetime, but lead relatively normal lives between episodes.
  • Schizoaffective Disorder and Bipolar Disorder: These can also cause recurring episodes of psychosis.

Stages of Psychosis

There are typically three stages of psychosis:

Prodromal phase

This initial stage is marked by subtle changes in thoughts, perceptions, social functioning and mood. Symptoms are vague and hardly noticeable, like a general sense of unease or a feeling that something is not right.

Acute phase

Also known as the active phase, this is when the symptoms of psychosis begin to emerge clearly. Hallucinations, delusions and thought disorder are typical of this stage.

Recovery phase

Following treatment, individuals will enter the recovery phase, where symptoms are in remission. However, there can be residual symptoms, and full recovery might take several months or years. Supportive therapy, medication and personal resilience play a crucial role in recovery.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing psychosis involves a thorough medical evaluation to rule out substance abuse, medication side effects or other illnesses as the cause of the symptoms. Once other causes are ruled out, a mental health professional will conduct a comprehensive mental health evaluation.

Treatment for psychosis might include antipsychotic medications, psychological interventions and a strong support system. Early intervention is key to improving outcomes.

Understanding psychosis and recognizing its stages and symptoms can lead to early intervention, which significantly improves the likelihood of a full recovery. If you or a loved one is experiencing signs of psychosis, it’s important to seek professional help as soon as possible.

Remember, psychosis is a symptom, not a disease, and with proper treatment, individuals can reclaim their lives and enjoy mental wellness.

For those experiencing symptoms or for loved ones witnessing these changes, knowledge is power. Recognizing the signs of psychosis is the first step towards getting the necessary help and support to manage the condition effectively. At Bellaire, we have several treatment programs and services tailored to fit different levels of mental health needs. Call today at 1-833-618-0017 to learn more about our programming. 

If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 or seek your nearest emergency room. 

If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, call 988 and seek your nearest emergency room. 

About Behavioral Hospital of Bellaire

Behavioral Hospital of Bellaire is a facility that provides specialized behavioral health services focused on helping adults learn the skills necessary to live successful meaningful lives. We offer acute mental health treatment in our inpatient psychiatric facility as well as less intensive outpatient care.

Located in Houston, Texas, we take an integrative approach to mental health by having our multidisciplinary work together with patients to create customized treatment plans that focus on their individual goals. Our programs include servicing adolescents, adults and older adults. Some of the conditions we treat are depression, anxiety, substance use and more. We also have a variety of evidence-based treatment practices, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy.

To schedule a no-cost assessment or for more information, please call 1-833-379-0017