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Caring for adults
Caring for adults

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2.3 Psychosis

Psychoses are a group of serious mental health problems where the individual loses touch with reality. This experience is not something that most people can identify with and so the behaviour of an individual who is psychotic can seem very odd. The best-known type of psychosis is schizophrenia. A diagnosis of schizophrenia in most cases means that the individual is referred to specialist mental health services.


Many people think of people with schizophrenia as having a split mind. This is not the case. It does mean, though, that many people who have schizophrenia lose some of their personality – it is described as ‘fragmented’. This is largely due to the way schizophrenia affects people. The effects of schizophrenia are broadly divided into so-called positive symptoms and negative symptoms.

Positive symptoms are named positive, not because they are necessarily a good thing but because they add something to the person. For example, a diagnosis of schizophrenia is usually made when certain symptoms are present – that is, the symptoms are added to the person.

There are typical examples of positive symptoms that are indications of psychosis and schizophrenia. The individual might display odd behaviour as a response to symptoms including hallucinations, delusions or other disordered thought processes.

  • Hallucinations are sensory perceptions where there is no external stimulus. For example, an auditory hallucination such as hearing voices occurs when there is nobody speaking.
  • Delusions are strongly held beliefs that other people don’t share. For example, the individual might believe that their neighbour can read their thoughts.
  • Thought disorders include thinking that the television news is referring to that individual specifically or that the individual thinks that other people can control them through special cognitive powers.

In schizophrenia the individual might also feel very lethargic, unmotivated and seem to others disinterested in what is happening around them. They might be unable to look after their immediate environment without prompting. These are examples of the negative effects of schizophrenia – they take away from the individual.