Frequently Asked Questions
(Developed as part of the National Institute of Mental Health's Recovery After an Initial Schizophrenia Episode – Implementation and Evaluation Study)
Psychosis occurs when a person loses contact with reality. The word "psychosis" scares some people, but it actually describes an experience that many people have. Three out of every 100 people experience psychosis at some time in their lives, and most of them recover.
Psychosis can affect the way a person thinks, feels, and acts. Here are some common symptoms of psychosis:
- Hallucinations can affect any of the five senses. People experiencing psychosis might see, hear, taste, smell, or feel things that are not there, and they have difficulty believing that their senses are tricking them.
- Delusions are false beliefs that people hold strongly, despite all evidence that their beliefs are not true. For example, a person experiencing a delusion might believe she is being watched or followed.
- Confused thinking occurs when a person's thoughts don't make sense. His thoughts can be jumbled together, or they can be too fast or too slow. A person with confused thinking can have a hard time concentrating or remembering anything.
- Changes in feelings can include quick changes in mood. A person might also feel cut off from the rest of the world, or feel strange in some other way.
- Behavior changes often result in a person not bathing, dressing, or otherwise caring for herself as usual. Other behavior changes might involve behaviors that don't make sense, such as laughing while someone else is talking about something sad.
Experiencing symptoms of psychosis may disrupt your life. If psychosis is detected early, many problems can be prevented. The earlier symptoms are treated, the greater the chance of a successful recovery.
If symptoms are left untreated, individuals experience greater disruption to their family, friendships, school, and employment. Other problems may also occur or intensify, such as depression, substance abuse, breaking the law, or causing injury to himself/herself. Also, delays in treating symptoms may lead to a slower and less complete recovery.
Mental illnesses with psychosis often begin between the ages of 15-25. This is a very critical stage of a young person's life. Adolescents and young adults are just starting to develop their own identity, form lasting relationships, and make plans for their careers and future. Treating symptoms of early psychosis sooner helps individuals live a life of their choosing.
Early intervention with evidence-based treatments for individuals experiencing a first episode of psychosis (FEP) provides the best chance for clinical and functional recovery. Coordinated Specialty Care (CSC) is a model of FEP treatment that incorporates evidence-based treatments. CSC emphasizes team-based and recovery-oriented care.
Psychosis could have a number of different causes, and many researchers are working to understand why psychosis occurs. Some popular ideas are:
- Biological: Some people are more likely to develop psychosis because of their biology or their heredity. Many cases of psychosis have been linked to problems with neurotransmitters, or the chemical messengers that transmit impulses throughout a person's brain and central nervous system. In addition, the relatives of people who experience psychosis are more likely to experience psychosis themselves.
- Other factors: A person's first episode of psychosis can be triggered by stressful events or by drug use (especially use of marijuana, speed, or LSD).
Psychosis occurs in three predictable phases, but the length of each phase varies from person to person.
- The prodromal phase is the early warning phase of psychosis when a person experiences some mild symptoms and vague signs that something is not quite right.
- During the acute phase, a person clearly experiences one or more of the symptoms of psychosis.
- When a person reaches the recovery phase, he begins to feel like himself again. Different people experience the recovery phase differently. With effective treatment, many people who reach the recovery phase may never experience psychosis again.
Most people recover from psychosis, and many do so with the help of treatment. This treatment usually includes several parts:
- Learning treatment options and working with professionals to determine which options are right for you.
- Working with a mental health professional to practice ways to cope when things feel bad.
- Working with a doctor to determine how medications can help.
- Working with professionals who specialize in helping individuals learn to manage everything from relationships to jobs and school.
Three out of every 100 people experience psychosis at some time in their lives, and most of them recover. Recovery from psychosis results in some important life changes, and there are several things people can do to help themselves recover from psychosis.
Different people have different stories to tell about their recovery from psychosis. For example, some recover very quickly, while others only feel better after several months. With treatment, support and hard work, people in recovery from psychosis can look forward to their lives improving in some important ways.
The most important thing that helps people recover from psychosis is getting active. It may sound strange, but passively sitting around waiting for medicine and the professionals to cure you is usually not the way recovery happens!
Most people who recover get active by:
- Participate in treatment. Active treatment participants partner with their treatment providers to learn all they can about their treatment options, such as medications and therapy. They keep their appointments with these providers and give the providers honest feedback about how treatment is working or not working for them.
- Focus on personal goals. Personal goals in work, school, or other areas of life can be strong motivators for people recovering from psychosis. If they are not immediately ready to resume all their previous activities, people recovering from psychosis can set smaller, more realistic goals that will help them make progress.
- Find support. Friends, family, and other important people can provide important encouragement as people recover from psychosis. In addition, support groups for people who are recovering from psychosis can be important. In a support group, you can find hope, friends, pride, and proven strategies for getting well.
- Take care of yourself. Recovering from psychosis is hard work, so people recovering from psychosis must make sure they take good care of themselves. This means they need good diets, plenty of exercise and sleep, and regular medical check-ups.
- Take an honest look at drug and alcohol use. For some people, drug and alcohol use can trigger psychosis or make it worse. It can really help to take an honest look at your drug or alcohol use and ask yourself, "Has it contributed to my psychosis?"
- Keep your time structured. Many people find that being bored is stressful. Just hanging around doing nothing is usually not helpful. Get busy and structure your day with activities such as school, work, volunteering, friends and exercise. Try to find the right balance between time alone and with time around people.
You can also access more than 20 free early psychosis webinars and free downloadable implementation materials at our partner website, MDBehavioralHealth.com.
National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors-Early Intervention in Psychosis
Visit the official Maryland EIP Facebook page and "Like" so you can stay informed about EIP
Resources for Families
Fact sheets about 1) common behaviors or diagnoses children and teens may experience & 2) when and where to find professional help if you suspect your child has a mental health disorder. *In partnership with the Maryland Coalition of Families for Children's Mental Health and the Mental Health Association of Maryland
NAMI Family to Family
A free 12-week educational course for family, caregivers, and friends of individuals with mental illness
Contact information: (800) 950-NAMI (6264) or Click Here
Black Mental Health Alliance
Promotes a holistic, culturally relevant approach to developing and maintaining mental health programs and services for African Americans and other people of color
Contact information: Phone (410) 338-BMHA (2642); Fax (410) 338-1771; Or visit their website
733 West 40th Street, Suite 10
Baltimore, MD 21211
Youth Crisis Hotline for all of Maryland: (800) 422-0009 (operates 24/7)
The Family Tree: Parent Stress Line (Formerly Parents Anonymous of Maryland): (800) 243-7337 (24-hour stress line)
Baltimore Crisis Response Inc.: (410) 433-5175
Baltimore Child and Adolescent Response System (BCARS): (410) 727-4800 or visit their website
First Step Youth Services Center: Hotline (410) 521-3800
Baltimore Crisis Response Hotline: (410) 752-2272
Baltimore County Crisis Team/Hotline: (410) 931-2214
Substance Use and Mental Health Resources
Harbel Prevention and Recovery (Baltimore City)
Mountain Manor Treatment Center (Locations throughout Maryland)
Information Resources from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Treatment of Children with Mental Illness: Frequently Asked Questions About the Treatment of Mental Illness in Children (NIH 11-4702) Answers to frequently asked questions about the treatment of mental illness in children. (6 p.)
Mental Health Medications (NIH 12-3929) This guide describes the types of medications used to treat mental disorders, side effects of medications, directions for taking medications, and any FDA warnings. (30 p.)
Safety and Violence
Suicide in America: Frequently Asked Questions (TR 11-7697) A brief overview of the statistics on depression and suicide with information on depression treatments and suicide prevention. (1 p.)
Suicide: A Major, Preventable Mental Health Problem - Facts About Suicide and Suicide Prevention Among Teens and Young Adults (OM 12-4303) This brochure answers some common questions about suicide. Learn what some of the risk factors are and how to look for signs. (1 p.)
Helping Children and Adolescents Cope with Violence and Disasters: What Rescue Workers Can Do (NIH 12-3520) A brochure that describes what rescue workers can do to help children and adolescents cope with violence and disasters. (1 p.)
Helping Children and Adolescents Cope with Violence and Disasters: What Parents Can Do (NIH 13-3518) A brochure that describes what parents can do to help children and adolescents cope with violence and disasters. (1 p)
Schizophrenia (NIH 10-3517) A detailed booklet on schizophrenia that describes symptoms, causes, and treatments, with information on getting help and coping. (18 p.)
Anxiety Disorders An interactive link that describes the symptoms, causes, and treatments of the major anxiety disorders, with information on getting help and coping.
Bipolar Disorder in Adults (NIH 12-3679) A detailed booklet that describes bipolar disorder symptoms, causes, and treatments, with information on getting help and coping. (32 p.)
Bipolar Disorder in Children and Adolescents (NIH 12-6380) This booklet is for parents who think their child may have symptoms of bipolar disorder, or parents whose child has been diagnosed. (28 p.)
Bipolar Disorder in Children and Teens (QF 11-6380) A brochure on bipolar disorder in children and teens that explains what it is, when it starts, and how to get help. (1 p.)
Depression (NIH 11-3561) A detailed booklet that describes depression symptoms, causes, and treatments, with information on getting help and coping. (24 p.)
Depression and College Students: Answers to College Students' Frequently Asked Questions About Depression (NIH 12-4266) Many people experience the first symptoms of depression during their college years. This booklet describes what depression is, how it affects college students, and treatment options. (7 p.)
Depression and High School Students: Answers to Students’ Frequently Asked Questions About Depression (OM 12-4302) This brochure provides answers to students' frequently asked questions about depression including what it is, how it is treated, and how to help a friend. (1 p.)
Generalized Anxiety Disorder: When Worry Gets Out of Control (TR 13-4677) A brochure on generalized anxiety disorder that explains what it is, when it starts, and how to get help. (1 p.)
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: When Unwanted Thoughts Take Over (TR 13-4676) A brochure on obsessive-compulsive disorder that explains what it is, when it starts, and how to get help. (1 p.)
Panic Disorder: When Fear Overwhelms (TR 13-4679) A brochure on panic disorder that explains what it is, when it starts, and how to get help. (1 p.)
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (NIH 10-6388) A booklet on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that explains what it is, treatment options, and how to get help. (14 p.)
Postpartum Depression Facts (NIH 13-8000) A brochure on postpartum depression that explains its causes, symptoms, treatments, and how to get help. (1.p)
Social Phobia (Social Anxiety Disorder): Always Embarrassed (TR 13-4678) A brochure on social phobia (social anxiety disorder) that explains what it is, when it starts, and how to get help. (1 p.)