The term “psycho” isn’t used in the professional sense.  However, people who are unaware and uninformed, simply use “psycho” in the most ignorant ways.  The term is short for “psychotic” which is technically a mental illness.  A person who is psychotic suffers from the symptoms known as psychosis, and are grossly impaired to live a normal, happy, real life.

There are many symptoms to psychosis which include paranoia and delusional thoughts.  These are important to understand.  A person may hallucinate; coupled with delusions, this can create a disconnect to reality.  A person could hear a woman crying who isn’t there, or see a child run out into the street right into a car, but the child isn’t there either.  These delusions can also include behaviors within a situation that is not real.  For example, a man could experience hours, days, or even weeks with the delusion of being the president.  Literally, walking around the house as if in the White House, and talking to people around him as if they were his staff.

Having psychosis can also make a person withdrawal from society because their thoughts about others can be fractured.  These thoughts and experiences are terrifying.  The paranoia can make a person lose motivation, causing depression and thoughts of suicide.  It is also very important to know that while suffering from psychosis, a person can hurt themselves or others, especially since the paranoia or hallucinations can cause a person to experience something that is not really happening.  Something like stabbing at an attacking dog who ends up being a child, or tearing at your own face, believing it is covered with spiders.

People who suffer from psychosis do not have to have an actual psychotic disorder.  People can have psychotic episodes or psychosis due to a brain injury, a tumor or other disease of the brain, or as a result of side effects of medication.  Although some do not see these as a true psychotic, the symptoms of psychosis are evident and should be treated as such.  Also, depending on the reason for the psychosis, symptoms may not be consistent or constant.

Psychosis manifests in certain mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.  There are many risk factors for psychotic disorders; there are genetic factors as well as environmental.  There are also some psychological risks that, when coupled with any genetic or environmental risk, can increase the chance of becoming psychotic.  It is believed that men suffer from psychotic disorders more than women.  However, in a lesser amount, some women who suffer from postpartum depression can also develop postpartum psychosis; about one out of 1,000 births.  About three million people in the America have a psychotic disorder; however, that number should probably be higher because many people who have this disorder do not believe they are sick, thereby, they do not seek help or gain a diagnosis.

We know that some medical conditions and medication can cause psychosis; however, causes for true psychotic disorders are still being investigated.  We know that there are genetic predispositions that interplay with our environment and our psychological well-being.  Although we do not fully understand the causes and risk factors for psychotic disorders, we do know that biology and genetics have a strong correlation.  Psychotic disorders have been found to run in a family.  A family with someone who has schizophrenia (parent, grandparent, aunt, etc.) has greater chances of developing, let’s say, schizophrenia, then a family who has no history of having this disorder.

Statistically, people who have poor medical health tend to develop more mental diseases.  Certain toxins, infective agents, many allergies, and metabolic disorders have been studied and it was found that if these conditions are not met with care in adolescent years, there is an increase in developing a psychotic disorder.  Isn’t that crazy to think about?  Being raised poor, and having allergies, it is no wonder why people like me have the harsher side effects of certain medication, including psychosis.  In lower socioeconomic neighborhoods, people tend to self-medicate with alcohol, weed, cigarettes, and, of course, harsher drugs.  These environmental factors can add to the development of psychosis.

The symptoms of being psychotic or suffering from psychosis varies.  They can include:

  • Apathy, being stoic and seemingly uncaring
  • Isolating oneself due to anxiety or fear
  • Feeling restless, having excessive energy or excitement
  • Angry and aggressive
  • Excessive talking, incoherent language, and talking fast
  • Feeling unreal, their mind has been invaded and controlled by someone else
  • Disorganized thoughts, bizarre behavior, hallucinations
  • Reactions can be with uncontrollable crying or anger
  • Phases of lack of judgment, emotion, and memory

People who struggle with psychosis also have to struggle with the people around them.  Characteristics of psychosis are not predictable, are uncontrollable, and, quite frankly, detrimental to any relationship that a person who is psychotic may have.

In diagnosing a psychotic disorder, a doctor will first check to see if there is a medication or other drug exposure that can be attributed to the psychotic symptoms.  Once that is eliminated, then the person should be sent to a mental health professional who will do the diagnosis.  Antipsychotic medication is generally prescribed, with the addition of initial psychotherapy in order to help the person understand what their lifelong condition entails.

So, the next time you hear someone call you or someone else psycho, or psychotic, please understand that suffering from psychosis is debilitating and should not be made light of.  I always want to “take them out back” when I hear someone use mental health as a punchline; however, that would not be very professional, would it…

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