Psychotic symptoms can come about as part of a mental health disorder or be triggered by certain behaviour

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Psychotic symptoms, also known as features, can be brought on by a severe mental health crisis or disorder which may be pre-existing or developing.

Examples of conditions include postnatal depression with psychotic features, severe depression with psychotic features, bipolar disorder with psychotic features or an emerging borderline personality disorder with psychotic features.

Other triggers of psychotic symptoms include a significant lack of sleep or using drugs such as cannabis or amphetamines.

What are the symptoms?

  • Hearing one or more voices. For the voice-hearer, these voices appear to come from outside their head from someone they can’t see but clearly hear. The voice makes frequent negative comments about the voice-hearer or demands negative actions. The voice-hearer faces an internal challenge of whether to follow the negative instruction, ignore it or talk back.
  • Feeling that your thoughts are being directed from an external power.
  • An irrational, very angry or fearful response to loved ones, such as becoming convinced that something awful may happen.
  • Young people may experience psychotic symptoms on and off. These can occur during the day or at night. Consequently, it is common that the young person doesn't want to sleep or may have disturbed sleep, which can perpetuate the problem.

Top tips

  • Speak with a family member or friend: Find someone you trust, share your changed or confused experience of yourself and others around you, and ask them for support in finding help.
  • Get professional help: For more complex and challenging mental health problems, you'll need to be referred for an assessment by a psychiatrist who is part of an Early Intervention Service. Speak to your GP or Pause staff (if you're in the Birmingham area).
  • Stop drinking alcohol or using cannabis: This is likely to improve your changed mindset and behaviours, even if you previously found that alcohol or cannabis helped you to calm down, get to sleep or worry less.
  • Stay healthy: Make sure that you eat regularly, drink plenty of water, go for walks with someone you trust and try to get enough sleep at night.
  • Get some sleep: If you have trouble sleeping, ask for help from your GP. They may refer you to a specialist service or prescribe you medication to lessen your anxiety and trouble at night time.
  • Get support: A person experiencing psychotic symptoms becomes more fearful and withdrawn. They may need to rely on parents, partners or friends to take them to get help.

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