What are the early warning signs of psychosis?

In this blog we will answer the question ‘What are the early warning signs of psychosis?’ and touch upon the treatment of psychosis as well.

What are the early warning signs of psychosis?

The early warning signs of psychosis include

  • Hallucinations

Hallucinations are experiencing sensations that are not present in reality.

  1. Visual hallucinations are seeing things or people that are not there. 
  2. Auditory hallucinations are hearing people or sounds that are not present
  3. Tactile hallucinations are having sensations of touch that the person is unable to explain, feelings like a crawling insect on the skin or a burning sensation.
  4. Olfactory hallucinations are smelling odors that are not present in the vicinity.
  • Delusions 

Delusions are false beliefs that are strong and seem true to the person having them. The sufferer even knows them to be untrue at times, thus causing elevated distress.

  1. Delusions of paranoia are believing that people are against them, being suspicious of others and not trusting anyone.
  2. Delusions of persecution are when the person thinks that people are plotting against them. 
  3. Delusions of grandiosity are when the person believes that he has superpowers and is way above everyone else, or he thinks himself to be a celebrity or a holy person bestowed with supernatural powers.
  • Disturbed Thoughts 

The person’s thoughts are confused and highly disrupted with 

  1. rapid speech
  2. flight of ideas; jumping from one thought to another
  3. Abrupt break in thoughts
  • Paranoid or suspicious behavior
  • Sudden drop in grades
  • Sudden drop in job related performance
  • Lack of concentration
  • Ill kept personal hygiene
  • Social withdrawal
  • Losing touch with reality
  • Confused state
  • Flat emotions
  • At times very strong or volatile emotions

What is psychosis?

Psychosis is when a person loses touch with reality and cannot differentiate between fact and fantasy. In psychosis, information processing of the brain is affected and the person starts to see, hear, smell, touch things that are not really there. 

The onset of psychosis is in late teens or early adulthood. 

What are the causes of psychosis?

Psychosis is caused by sudden triggers. The following may be few of the causes of psychosis:

  1. Bi polar disorder

In this the person’s mood oscillates between elevated state and depression. 

  1. Schizophrenia

This is marked by the onset of hallucinations and delusions.

  1. Severe Depression

Extreme sadness coupled with the feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.

  1. Severe Anxiety

When a person cannot think of any coping mechanisms in the face of stress and suffers from intense feelings of desperation and an impending doom.

  1. Lack of sleep

When the person is in  an anxious state of mind and suffers from a profound lack of sleep, the probability of his suffering from psychosis is increased. 

  1. Drugs causing psychosis

are cocaine, methamphetamine, MDMA(ecstasy), psilocybin (magic mushrooms), amphetamine, LSD. There are some medicines used for health, that can also bring about a psychotic episode as a side effect. 

  1. Brain Chemistry

Neurotransmitters in the brain play an important role in causing psychosis.   

Dopamine is one such neurotransmitter that if in excess can cause psychotic symptoms.

How can psychosis be diagnosed?

Psychosis can be diagnosed only if some of the early warning signs of psychosis are evident in the person. For a formal diagnosis, a team of psychiatrist and a psychologist will determine if the person has at least 3 of the early warning signs of psychosis. 

If there is a family history of psychosis or a mental disorder, because genetics play a pivotal role in causing illness, especially mental illness. If a parent or any other member of the family is suffering from a mental illness, chances are higher that it can be handed down in the generation to others as well.

If a person has suffered from depression that has been left untreated or has gone through a tough crisis in life, he can develop psychotic symptoms. Questions related to these and other life events can help in the diagnosis of psychosis. 

How can Psychosis be treated?

Psychosis can be treated with antipsychotic medication, psychotherapy, social intervention, occupational engagement.

  1. Antipsychotic Medication

These are medicines used specifically for the treatment of psychosis. These medicines block the dopamine in the brain, the neurotransmitter responsible for the psychotic symptoms.

Most antipsychotic drugs have side effects too. The side effects include

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Extrapyramidal side effects (EPS)
  • Dry mouth
  • Weight gain
  • Constipation
  • Blurry vision
  • Restlessness
  • Low libido
  1. Psychotherapies 

The most effective psychotherapy for the treatment of psychosis is 

  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)

In CBT the patient is made to focus on how to bring about a change in his thinking pattern from irrational to rational thoughts and how well he can manage his education or work environment.

  1. Social and Occupational Intervention

This involves the patients family as well as his colleagues who are made a support for him. They are made to understand the condition the patient is in, so as best to provide interventions. 

They are also taught to engage in hobbies or tasks that are not stressful and keeps the patient busy.

In this blog we have answered the question ‘What are the early warning signs of psychosis?’ and touched upon the treatment of psychosis as well.

Titles to read

by Michael Garrett 

by E. Fuller Torrey

by Andrew Moskowitz, Martin J. Dorahy, et al.

by James H. Kleiger

Frequently Asked Questions 

Q1) What triggers psychosis?

Psychosis can be triggered by certain drugs, for example, cannabis, LSD (Acid).

Q2) What is psychotic behavior?

In psychosis  one experiences delusions and hallucinations. They lose touch with reality for example in Schizophrenia. 

Q3) Does psychosis go away?

It can go away itself as it is a one-time event. Naturally one can get rid of it, otherwise certain treatment methods can help. 

Q4) What psychosis feels like?

Individuals lack a sense of reality. The things they see, hear, feel or think are not what it seems to them. One undergoes hallucinations and delusions. 


  • https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/schizophrenia/raise/fact-sheet-early-warning-signs-of-psychosis.shtml
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2838993/
  • https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/psychosis/causes/
  • https://www.nature.com/articles/s41398-017-0071-9