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Understanding Psychosis

There can be a close relationship between mental health concerns and drug use. For some young people, mental health issues can begin to emerge when they stop using. For others their drug and alcohol use exacerbates mental health concerns and for some young people use is a way to try to manage existing mental health concerns.

One of the most frightening experiences can be when the brain confuses what is real and what is not – this is called a psychotic episode or psychosis.

The treatment for psychosis is usually medication, helping a young person to understand what they are experiencing, counselling, family support, avoiding stress and staying off the drugs. If your loved one is experiencing psychosis they will likely be feeling frightened and alone, fearful, mistrustful, angry and agitated. It is important to remember that they are not behaving this way because they are acting out – they are unable to control these experiences.

If you are worried about a young person’s drug use and mental health check out Headspace for more advice and support.

Early warning signs

If you are worried that your loved one is at risk of psychosis here are some early warning signs to look out for:

• Confused thinking: a young person may find it difficult to concentrate follow a conversation, or remember things.
• False sense of reality: thinking someone is there when they aren’t, or strongly believing something that probably is not true.
• Paranoia: for example, thinking they are being followed or someone’s always watching them.
• Hallucinations: seeing, hearing & smelling things that aren’t there.
• Difficulty showing emotions, withdrawal from friends, family or normal activities, and mood swings are other potential signs.
• The good news is, psychosis is treatable. Young people do recover and the earlier they seek help, the better the outcome.

Supporting loved ones

• Try to remain calm and be supportive
• Keep a quiet, reassuring tone to your voice
• Seek help from GP or mental health service such as Headspace
• Now is not the time for disagreements or getting into an argument. Avoid conflict (and topics that trigger conflict) until the young person is well enough to talk things out properly.
• If a young person is talking about harming themselves, get support from your local mental health service, hospital or emergency services.

Resources

• Speak to your local mental health service
• headspace articles about psychosis
headspace website