Dec 19, 2009


Psychosis (from the Greek ψυχή "psyche", for mind or soul, and -ωσις "-osis", for abnormal condition) literally means abnormal condition of the mind, and is a generic psychiatric term for a mental state often described as involving a "loss of contact with reality". People suffering from psychosis are said to be psychotic.

People experiencing psychosis may report hallucinations or delusional beliefs, and may exhibit personality changes and thought disorder. This may be accompanied by unusual or bizarre Justify Fullbehavior, as well as difficulty with social interaction and impairment in carrying out the daily life activities.

A wide variety of central nervous system diseases, from both external poisons and internal physiologic illness, can produce symptoms of psychosis.

However, many people have unusual and unshared (distinct) experiences of what they perceive to be different realities without fitting the clinical definition of psychosis. For example, many people in the general population have experienced hallucinations related to religious or paranormal experience. As a result, it has been argued that psychosis is simply an extreme state of consciousness that falls beyond the norms experienced by most. In this view, people who are clinically found to be psychotic may simply be having particularly intense or distressing experiences.


  • Hallucinations
A hallucination is defined as sensory perception in the absence of external stimuli. They are different from illusions, or perceptual distortions, which are the misperception of external stimuli. Hallucinations may occur in any of the five senses and take on almost any form, which may include simple sensations (such as lights, colors, tastes, and smells) to more meaningful experiences such as seeing and interacting with fully formed animals and people, hearing voices, and having complex tactile sensations.

Auditory hallucinations, particularly experiences of hearing voices, are a common and often prominent feature of psychosis. Hallucinated voices may talk about, or to, the person, and may involve several speakers with distinct personas. Auditory hallucinations tend to be particularly distressing when they are derogatory, commanding or preoccupying. However, the experience of hearing voices need not always be a negative one. One research study has shown that the majority of people who hear voices are not in need of psychiatric help. The Hearing Voices Movement has subsequently been created to support voice hearers, regardless of whether they are considered to have a mental illness or not.

  • Delusions
Psychosis may involve delusional beliefs, some of which are paranoid in nature. Karl Jaspers has classified psychotic delusions into primary and secondary types. Primary delusions are defined as arising suddenly and not being comprehensible in terms of normal mental processes, whereas secondary delusions may be understood as being influenced by the person's background or current situation (e.g., ethnic or sexual orientation, religious beliefs, superstitious belief).

  • Thought disorder
Thought disorder describes an underlying disturbance to conscious thought and is classified largely by its effects on speech and writing. Affected persons show loosening of associations, that is, a disconnection and disorganization of the semantic content of speech and writing. In the severe form speech becomes incomprehensible and it is known as "word-salad".


Causes of symptoms of mental illness were customarily classified as "organic" or "functional". Organic conditions are primarily medical or pathophysiological, whereas, functional conditions are primarily psychiatric or psychological. The DSM-IV-TR no longer classifies psychotic disorders as functional or organic. Rather it lists traditional psychotic illnesses, psychosis due to General Medical conditions, and Substance induced psychosis.

Functional causes of psychosis include the following:

  • * brain tumors
  • * drug abuse amphetamines, cocaine, alcohol among others
  • * brain damage
  • * schizophrenia
  • * bipolar disorder (manic depression)
  • * severe clinical depression
  • * severe psychosocial stress
  • * sleep deprivation
  • * some focal epileptic disorders especially if the temporal lobe is affected
  • * exposure to some traumatic event (violent death, etc.)
  • * abrupt or over-rapid withdrawal from certain recreational or prescribed drugs

A psychotic episode can be significantly affected by mood. For example, people experiencing a psychotic episode in the context of depression may experience persecutory or self-blaming delusions or hallucinations, while people experiencing a psychotic episode in the context of mania may form grandiose delusions.

Stress is known to contribute to and trigger psychotic states. A history of psychologically traumatic events, and the recent experience of a stressful event, can both contribute to the development of psychosis. Short-lived psychosis triggered by stress is known as brief reactive psychosis, and patients may spontaneously recover normal functioning within two weeks. In some rare cases, individuals may remain in a state of full-blown psychosis for many years, or perhaps have attenuated psychotic symptoms (such as low intensity hallucinations) present at most times.

Sleep deprivation has been linked to psychosis. However, this is not a risk for most people, who merely experience hypnagogic or hypnopompic hallucinations, i.e. unusual sensory experiences or thoughts that appear during waking or drifting off to sleep. These are normal sleep phenomena and are not considered signs of psychosis.

Vitamin B12 deficiency can also cause symptoms of mania and psychosis.

Vitamin D deficiency can cause altered thinking and psychosis.

Genetics may also have a role in psychosis. The Genain quadruplets were identical quadruplets who were all diagnosed with schizophrenia.

General medical

Psychosis arising from "organic" (non-psychological) conditions is sometimes known as secondary psychosis. It can be associated with the following pathologies:

* neurological disorders, including:
  • o brain tumour
  • o dementia with Lewy bodies
  • o multiple sclerosis
  • o sarcoidosis
  • o Lyme Disease
  • o syphilis
  • o Alzheimer's Disease
  • o Parkinson's Disease

* electrolyte disorders such as:
  • o hypocalcemia
  • o hypernatremia
  • o hyponatremia
  • o hypokalemia
  • o hypomagnesemi
  • o hypermagnesemia
  • o hypercalcemia
  • o hypophosphatemia
  • * hypoglycemia
  • * lupus
  • * AIDS
  • * leprosy
  • * malaria
  • * Adult-onset vanishing white matter leukoencephalopathy
  • * Late-onset metachromatic leukodystrophy
  • * Cerebral involvement of scleroderma (a single case report).
  • * Hashimoto's encephalopathy, an extremely rare condition (about 100 reported cases).

Psychosis can even be caused by apparently innocuous ailments such as flu or mumps.

... I am not crazy. I just want to remind myself that I have to be somewhat aware of whats happening to myself. Maybe I am, maybe I am not. But either ways I have to be keen or else.


shashank said...

Here is a link to more information about the genetics of Leukoencephalopathy with Vanishing White Matter that was prepared by our genetic counselor and which has links to some useful resource for those dealing with this condition: There is also a number listed for anyone who wants to speak to a genetic counselor by phone. I hope it helps. Thanks, AccessDNA

shashank said...

Here is a link to more information about the genetics of Leukoencephalopathy with Vanishing White Matter that was prepared by our genetic counselor and which has links to some useful resources for those dealing with this condition: There is also a phone number listed if you need to speak to a genetic counselor by phone. I hope it helps. Thanks, AccessDNA