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What Does Psychotic Mean: How to Tell if Someone is Psychotic

Updated on January 10, 2015
Blake Flannery profile image

Blake has worked in the mental health field since 2002 educating and inspiring hope on the journey toward recovery.

What is Psychosis?

You may be wondering if you are psychotic if you found this page. If you are reading this, chances are you are not psychotic because only about 3% of all people experience psychosis. Psychosis is characterized by loss of reality in some way, usually either hallucinations and/or delusions are present. Observing people who are truly psychotic is the best way to get an idea of what is going on if you have never experienced psychosis yourself.

Psychosis can be a result of different mental illnesses or drug use. It is important to distinguish those who are psychotic from what people think of as "crazy." Many people hold the belief that people who have psychosis are wild, raging, scary, violent people. This is untrue, psychosis is a result of illness and a person can be extremely nice and calm while experiencing psychosis. It is true, however, that a person with psychosis can be dangerous to him or herself. But anyone could be a danger to him or herself without being psychotic.

What is Psychosis: Video about Psychosis

People Who Experience Psychosis are Psychotic

Psychosis isn't the same thing as acting "crazy."
Psychosis isn't the same thing as acting "crazy."

What is a Hallucination?

Hallucinations are one possible feature of psychosis. Hallucinations involve sensing something that is not actually there. There are different types of hallucinations associated with the different senses.

  • Visual Hallucinations: Seeing something that isn't really there. This is the type most people think of when they hear hallucination. Visual hallucinations may result in someone talking to someone who is not there.
  • Audio Hallucinations: Hearing something that isn't really there. A person with psychosis may hear voices. Some voices may be pleasant, while others can be mean or scary. Some voices people hear tell them to do certain things. These are called command hallucinations.
  • Olfactory Hallucinations: Smelling something that isn't really there. For obvious reasons olfactory hallucinations are probably not as startling as audio/visual hallucinations, but smelling something that isn't there is possible.
  • Tactile Hallucinations: Feeling something touch you that isn't really there. Sometimes psychotic people will feel something crawling on them. You can imagine that this is not pleasant.
  • Gustatory Hallucinations: Although not as common in mental disorders, gustatory hallucinations involve tasting something that is not there. Usually the taste is unpleasant.
  • Proprioceptive, Equilibrioceptive, Nociceptive, Thermoceptive and Chronoceptive Hallucinations may also occur.

Most hallucinations are a result of Schizophrenia and other mental illnesses or a result of drug use.

What does Delusional Mean?

Delusions are irrational beliefs that can be part of psychosis.  For example, a person who is psychotic may belief that "they" are out to get him.  When you ask him who "they" are? He might answer, "you know who, don't play games with me!"This is an example of a paranoia delusion.  Another delusion might be delusions of grandeur.  In delusions of grandeur, a person may believe himself to be superman or Jesus.  This can create some sadly funny dialogue between the person with psychosis and others.  Unfortunately, this can be a debilitating part of psychosis that will likely cause anxiety, depression, or lead to suicide or other violence.

When someone is delusional, their life can be affected.  Delusions can keep people from doing things they would normally need to do.  Keeping a job, going to the grocery, calling friends can play out like a nightmare for the person. 

When someone has psychosis and is experiencing delusions, you may be tempted to try to convince them of the rational truth.  This can backfire, especially if the person is paranoid, because they may turn against you and accuse you of being an enemy.

When someone is experiencing delusions that are affecting normal life activities, it is best to talk with a professional who can direct him to the best treatment.  Usually medications are prescribed to help clear the delusional thoughts, and symptom management can be helpful.

Explanation and Meaning of Psychosis

How is Psychosis Treated

When someone is experiencing psychosis, there are a number of factors that will determine the path to treatment.  The cause of the psychosis, such as Schizophrenia or Bipolar Disorder will be taken into account.  People respond differently to different antipsychotic medication, so finding the right one may take trial and error.  Finding the right dose takes some trial an error also.  Psychiatrist specialize in finding what works.

When someone is in danger of hurting themselves or others, they may need close monitoring to ensure safety.  Sometimes inpatient hospitalization is required, but frequently people can be treated by a Psychiatrist in outpatient treatment.  Many times, however, the family practice or primary care physician will make a referral to a psychiatrist when more expertise is needed.  So, you can start with your own doctor if you suspect you have psychosis.

How Many People Who Visit this Page are Psychotic?

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Disclaimer for this Article about Psychosis

None of the preceding information should be used to diagnose or treat psychosis.  No recommendation for treatment from the author is being made, only general information about psychosis.


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