Types of Psychosis

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Psychosis is a complex symptom of many different mental health concerns. It manifests in different ways and may be a permanent or temporary condition. The symptoms vary between different people, even if they have the same underlying condition.

Here’s an overview of what psychosis is and how to address it. 

Symptoms of Psychosis

Simply put, psychosis is when someone loses contact with reality. Someone who is experiencing psychosis can’t tell the difference between what is real and what isn’t.

They experience delusions or hallucinations that disrupt their lives and may prevent them from being independent depending on the severity of their condition. 

Delusions and Hallucinations

Some experiencing psychosis may have delusions and hallucinations. A delusion is when you believe something that isn’t true or real. A common delusion for someone experiencing psychosis is that someone is watching them. However, delusions can also include grandiose beliefs or that someone is in love with you, among other things. 

Hallucinations are different from delusions. While delusions are based on beliefs, hallucinations are more focused on the senses. When someone is experiencing hallucinations, they see, hear, smell, taste or feel things that aren’t actually there.

People with hallucinations often report hearing voices, seeing people or things, feeling bugs crawling on their skin, or tasting or smelling something that isn’t there. 

In addition to delusions and hallucinations, other symptoms of psychosis may include:

  • Sudden lack of personal hygiene and/or self-care 
  • Declines in productivity that impact grades or work performance
  • Lack of or inappropriate emotions
  • Increased isolation
  • Difficulty concentrating

Causes of Psychosis

There are many different reasons someone may experience psychosis. In some cases, a person has a psychotic break as a one-time occurrence. This can be the result of trauma, drug use, or a wide variety of physical conditions including:

The physical changes these conditions cause to the brain are what lead to the onset of psychosis. While these conditions are associated with psychosis, they aren’t the only cause.

Types of Psychotic Disorders

Other times, psychosis is a symptom of a more serious mental health condition. Common psychotic disorders include, but are not limited to:

Depression With Psychotic Features

Twenty-one million adults in the United States experience a major depressive episode each year. Over 18% of people with major depressive disorder have psychotic features. They experience delusions and/or hallucinations that are depressing in nature. This increases their risk for self-harm and suicide attempts.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Postpartum Psychosis

The onset of postpartum psychosis usually occurs within a few weeks of giving birth. It causes delusions and/or hallucinations and mood swings that increase the risk of harm for both the mother and baby.

Mothers experiencing postpartum psychosis may appear to be manic, depressed, or emotionally withdrawn. 

Schizoaffective Disorder

People with schizoaffective disorder experience a combination of symptoms associated with both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

As a result, they are often misdiagnosed with either of these conditions. The symptoms are very similar to other types of psychosis, which include hallucinations, and delusions. They may also experience depression and/or mania depending on which type of schizoaffective disorder they have. 

Schizophrenia

When you think of psychosis, you probably think of schizophrenia. It’s one of the most commonly referenced psychotic disorders.

About 1.5 million people in the United States have schizophrenia, and it’s one of the most prevalent disabilities in the world.

People who have schizophrenia experience hallucinations and delusions that alter their perception of reality. They also contend with disordered thinking and exhibit abnormal behavior that make it difficult to function. In the most severe cases of schizophrenia, people require guardians to oversee their care. 

Treatment for Psychosis

There are a lot of treatment options for psychosis. Most people benefit from a combination of therapy and medication. Severe cases may require inpatient treatment until the person becomes more stable. 

People with postpartum psychosis benefit from lithium treatment, which is associated with a lower likelihood for relapse, compared to other medications. Lithium is also an appropriate treatment option for other types of psychosis. Other medications may also help manage symptoms, like antipsychotics, benzodiazepines, and others.

A Word From Verywell

If you or someone you know is struggling with symptoms of psychosis, it's best to discuss treatment options with a doctor. Everyone responds differently to medication, so your doctor will most likely need to prescribe different types and doses before figuring out what works best. Should your treatment for psychosis stop working as well as it used to, discuss it with your doctor. They may be able to adjust the dose or prescribe another treatment to help manage your symptoms. Many people live with conditions that cause psychosis. It can be disabling, but it doesn’t have to be. Finding a treatment that works can give people with psychotic disorders a new lease on life. 

9 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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