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What to look for: Psychosis

Learn about the thoughts, feelings, behaviours and physical symptoms related to psychosis.

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Psychosis usually develops over a period of time. It can come on more suddenly, but that is uncommon. Most people have their first symptoms between the ages of 17 and 24. The symptoms below are ones that may show up when a person first starts to experience psychosis. Other symptoms may appear later.

Thoughts add

  • Can’t think straight; thoughts are all jumbled and confusing.
  • Believe you have special superhuman powers.
  • Become very suspicious or paranoid. Think others are spying, watching, following or plotting to harm you.
  • Find hidden messages for you on TV, radio or the internet.
  • Are completely convinced about something that is unusual and there is nothing anyone else says that can prove it’s not true.
  • A sudden intense interest in occult, supernatural or religious beliefs that are not connected to your family or culture.

Feelings add

  • Feel or show less emotion than you used to.

Behaviours add

  • Make changes that concern your family or friends. They say you’re not your usual self.
  • Take part in reckless behaviours that can bring harm.
  • Don’t respond when someone is talking to you.
  • Speak very quickly and/or in a way that is difficult to understand and doesn’t make sense.

Physical Signs add

  • Hear or see things that are not there (such as voices when there’s no one around).
  • Sounds, lights or colours seem more intense than usual.
  • Go days with little or no sleep but feel totally energized.

If you have these experiences, it doesn’t automatically mean you have psychosis. They may be the result of other mental health challenges, a physical health problem, a temporary reaction to stress or something else. This is why it is important to get them checked out.

Cannabis and Psychosis

Some people may also experience symptoms of psychosis as a result of cannabis use.  For most people, these symptoms will usually begin to go away as the cannabis wears off.  The symptoms will usually not return unless cannabis is used again.

A very few people with a family history of serious and persistent mental illness or other factors in their life, may develop a longer lasting psychosis. An even smaller number of people who experience a longer psychosis may receive a diagnosis of a schizophrenia spectrum disorder. If you have a family member with psychosis or a schizophrenia spectrum disorder and especially if you also develop a temporary psychosis when using cannabis, then you are at very high risk and need to address your use.

Not everyone experiences the same set of symptoms or to the same level. A person may be diagnosed with psychosis when symptoms are very strong, on-going and get in the way of their life.

It is important to get help early in order to recover faster and reduce the negative effect psychosis may have. There are specialized early psychosis treatments and services available.

Concerned about someone else?

Often friends and family are first to notice changes that are very unusual and concerning. For information on:

What Next?

Find out if this is something you are experiencing by taking the self-check. Sometimes help from a professional is needed, check out the Get Support section.