A Cup of Coffee: It's all in your mind – Psychosis

Welcome back! Last week we talked about Grief. If you missed that blog and would like to catch up, click HERE.

This month, we are going to review a variety of mental health diagnosis’, and start a series on mental health in America. It’s time to come to the table and have a chat…

We see it every day. We turn on the news, and there it is, another crisis. We hear pleas for more funding for mental health, and yet we only see more cuts and layoffs. The teachers are begging to be heard; this is a crisis in our schools, and yet we talk about mental health as if it belongs to someone else and doesn’t affect us.

Many, when questioned, don’t even understand what mental health is. Why would a mother drive her children into the ocean, and when stopped, get out of the car and walk away as if in a daze? “Pure evil” someone wrote on a Facebook page. “Some people just shouldn’t be parents” another wrote. The truth of the matter? We don’t know. She may have been experiencing psychosis.

The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) says this about psychosis:

Psychosis includes a range of symptoms but typically involves one of these two major experiences:

Hallucinations are seeing, hearing or feeling things that aren’t there, such as the following:

  • Hearing voices (auditory hallucinations)
  • Strange sensations or unexplainable feelings
  • Seeing glimpses of objects or people that are not there or distortions

Delusions are strong beliefs that are not consistent with the person’s culture, are unlikely to be true and may seem irrational to others, such as the following:

  • Believing external forces are controlling thoughts, feelings and behaviors
  • Believing that trivial remarks, events or objects have personal meaning or significance
  • Thinking you have special powers, are on a special mission or even that you are God.”

The mother in the car, attempting to drive her children into the ocean, may indeed have believed that she was on a mission to save them. We simply don’t know without an evaluation. We don’t know what her intent was, or how she was perceiving the world around her.

NAMI goes on to explain the potential causes that may contribute to psychosis:

We are still learning about how and why psychosis develops, but several factors are likely involved. We do know that teenagers and young adults are at increased risk of experiencing an episode of psychosis because of hormonal changes in their brain during puberty.

Several factors that can contribute to psychosis:

  • Genetics. Many genes can contribute to the development of psychosis, but just because a person has a gene doesn’t mean they will experience psychosis. Ongoing studies will help us better understand which genes play a role in psychosis.
  • Trauma. A traumatic event such as a death, war or sexual assault can trigger a psychotic episode. The type of trauma—and a person’s age—affects whether a traumatic event will result in psychosis.
  • Substance use. The use of marijuana, LSD, amphetamines and other substances can increase the risk of psychosis in people who are already vulnerable.
  • Physical illness or injury. Traumatic brain injuries, brain tumors, strokes, HIV and some brain diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and dementia can sometimes cause psychosis.
  • Mental health conditions. Sometimes psychosis is a symptom of a condition like schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder or depression.”

There are even early warning signs that can give a parent a heads up, should they believe their youth is struggling. NAMI has this to say:

Early psychosis or FEP rarely comes suddenly. Usually, a person has gradual, non-specific changes in thoughts and perceptions, but doesn’t understand what’s going on. Early warning signs can be difficult to distinguish from typical teen or young adult behavior. While such signs should not be cause for alarm, they may indicate the need to get an assessment from a doctor.

Encouraging people to seek help for early psychosis is important. Families are often the first to see early signs of psychosis and the first to address the issue of seeking treatment. However, a person’s willingness to accept help is often complicated by delusions, fears, stigma and feeling unsettled. In this case, families can find the situation extremely difficult, but there are engagement strategies to help encourage a person to seek help.

It’s important to get help quickly since early treatment provides the best hope of recovery by slowing, stopping and possibly reversing the effects of psychosis. Early warning signs include the following:

  • A worrisome drop in grades or job performance
  • Trouble thinking clearly or concentrating
  • Suspiciousness or uneasiness with others
  • A decline in self-care or personal hygiene
  • Spending a lot more time alone than usual
  • Strong, inappropriate emotions or having no feelings at all.”

So here’s some questions that we must put on the table: What do we believe about mental illness? What are we looking for when we seek to blame a persons character or intent, rather than examine the state of their mind? Do we want to see a solution to our current mental health crisis in America? Are we willing to open ourselves up to a civil discussion about the issues?

For the rest of this month, we will meet here and try and find some answers to the above questions. We may walk away with more questions than answers, or we may decide that regardless of the question at hand, the solutions are THE most important thing.

This video goes over the five types of most common psychosis’ you will experience. If you, or someone you know, has any of these symptoms, please reach out for help. Share your experiences here on this blog. Let’s work together to find health.

The Osteopathic Approach: Mind, Body, and Spirit.

Next week, we will discuss Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. See you then…

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