Psychosis is a mental health problem that causes people to perceive or interpret things differently from those around them. This might involve hallucinations or delusions.

This page covers:

Puerperal psychosis

When to seek medical advice

Getting help for others




Symptoms of psychosis

The two mainsymptoms of psychosis are:

  • hallucinations where a person hears, sees and, in some cases, feels, smells or tastes things that aren't there; a common hallucination is hearing voices
  • delusionswhere a person has strong beliefs that aren't shared by others; a common delusion issomeone believingthere is a conspiracy to harm them

The combination of hallucinations and delusional thinking can cause severe distress and a change in behaviour.

Experiencing the symptoms of psychosis is often referred to as having a psychotic episode.

Read about the symptoms of psychosis .

When to seek medical advice

You should see your GP immediately if you're experiencing symptoms of psychosis.It's important psychosis is treated as soon as possible, as early treatment can be more effective.

Your GP may ask you some questions to help determine what's causing your psychosis. They should also refer you to a mental health specialist for further assessment and treatment.

If they're receiving support from a mental health service, you could contact their mental health worker.

If you think the person's symptoms are placing them at possible risk of harm, you can:

  • take them to the nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department, if they agree
  • call their GP or local out-of-hours GP
  • call 999 and ask for an ambulance

A number of mental health helplines are also available, which can offer expert advice.

Around 50% of people need to take long-term medication to prevent symptoms recurring.

If a person's psychotic episodes are severe, they may need to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital for treatment.

Read about treating psychosis .

Complications of psychosis

People with a history of psychosis are more likely than others to have drug or alcohol misuse problems, or both.

Some people use these substances as a way of managing psychotic symptoms. However, substance abuse can make psychotic symptoms worse or cause other problems.

Self-harm and suicide

People with psychosis have a higher than average risk of self-harm and suicide .

See your GPif you're self-harming. You can also call the Samaritans , free of charge,on 116 123 for support. The mental health charity Mind also has some useful information and advice.

If you think a friend or relative is self-harming, look out for signs of unexplained cuts, bruises or cigarette burns, usually on the wrists, arms, thighs, and chest. People who self-harm may keep themselves covered upat all times, even in hot weather.

Read moreabout:

  • getting help if you self-harm
  • spotting the signs of self-harm in others

If you're feeling suicidal, you can:

  • callthe Samaritans support service on116 123
  • go to your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department and tell the staff how you're feeling
  • contactthe NHS 111 service
  • speak toa friend, family member, or someone you trust
  • make an urgent appointment to see your GP,psychiatrist, or care team

  • warning signs of suicide
  • supporting someone who's feelingsuicidal
  • Content supplied by the NHS Website

    Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 4 Jan 2017