How to Respond to Teen Psychosis

Psychosis is a symptom of mind that can show up in adolescence, but for most teens it won’t. Yet, for those teens who do experience hallucinations and/or delusions, psychosis can be a scary experience. Psychosis is a symptom, much like feeling down is a symptom of depression. Psychosis is essentially the experience of the mind (psyche) losing contact with reality. Hallucinations and delusions are typical experiences of psychosis. A hallucination is a form of sensory experience that others cannot perceive. In other words, it could be an experience of hearing voices or seeing things that others don’t see. Delusions, on the other hand, are false beliefs that an individual continues to believe in despite evidence that disproves the belief. This article will discuss the causes and symptoms of teen psychosis, as well as what parents can do to help if their teen is experiencing psychosis.

Symptoms of Teen Psychosis

If a teen has never experienced psychosis, then it might feel like an overwhelming or frightening experience. It might feel unmanageable, alarming, and confusing. If experiences of psychosis continue to occur, then a teen might have other symptoms. In addition to having hallucinations and delusions, other symptoms of teen psychosis include:

  • disorganized thinking
  • disorganized speech
  • unusual behavior or dress
  • confusion
  • disturbances in memory
  • indecisiveness
  • changes in weight
  • changes in sleeping patterns
  • changes in eating habits

If a teen has one or more of these symptoms for longer than one month, they may eventually be diagnosed with schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder. Yet, on the other hand, psychosis could be a short-term experience that comes on suddenly and lasts for less than one month. These cases are diagnosed as a Brief Psychotic Disorder.

Causes of Psychosis

A brief episode of psychosis might be the result of a major life stressor, such as a death or accident, a natural disaster, or the experience of assault. At times, psychosis does not have an identifiable cause. In these cases, there are no apparent traumas or related experiences of loss or disaster. For women, a brief psychotic episode might take place right after giving birth. Within 4 weeks of having a baby, females are might experience hallucinations, delusions, or other symptoms of a psychotic episode.

Here is a list of the disorders which are categorized as Psychotic Disorders:

  • Brief Psychotic Disorder (mentioned above)
  • Delusional Disorder
  • Schizophreniform Disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Schizoaffective Disorder
  • Substance/Medication-Induced Psychotic Disorder
  • Schizotypal (Personality) Disorder
  • Psychotic Disorder Due to Another Medical Condition
  • Catatonia
  • Catatonia Associated With Another Mental Disorder
  • Catatonic Disorder Due to Another Medical Condition
  • Unspecified Catatonia
  • Other Psychotic Disorder

What Parents Can do to Help

If a teen experiences the symptoms discussed above, parents should take the following steps:

  1. Call a psychiatrist or other mental health provider immediately.
  2. Additionally, a teen should be assessed medically to determine whether or not any physical ailments could be the cause.
  3. A psychological assessment should be conducted to explore any co-existing mental illnesses.
  4. Once an adolescent is treated for psychosis (usually by the psychiatrist), it is important for a psychiatrist to continue to monitor symptoms in the event that psychosis happens again.
  5. Parents can do their best to provide nurturing and comfort to their teen during this confusing and potentially frightening experience.
  6. Parents and caregivers should remain in contact with the psychiatrist, medical doctor, and a therapist.

These are suggestions for responding to a teen who has experienced psychosis. Because this is a symptom that can point to a serious illness, parents should respond immediately once they hear that their teen has experienced any psychotic symptoms.

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Further Reading

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