What Is Psychosis?

Psychosis is a mental health condition that causes a person to have difficulty understanding the differences between what's real and what's not.

What Is a Psychotic Break?

A psychotic break occurs when a patient is experiencing psychotic symptoms. It is a term often used for patients with schizophrenia to describe their first psychotic episode.

Why Choose Huntsman Mental Health Institute?

At the Huntsman Mental Health Institute (HMHI), formerly University Neuropsychiatric Institute (UNI), we use the latest research and mental health training tools to diagnose the cause of your psychosis and treat your symptoms.

Psychosis Causes

Psychosis is a symptom of a mental health disorder. The challenge is finding what causes the psychosis.

Psychosis can be associated with the following mental health conditions:

  • Schizophrenia — Symptoms begin in late teens and early 20s and cause people to have problems interpreting what is real
  • Bipolar disorder  Psychotic symptoms linked with manic behavior (e.g., incorrectly believing they are a famous person)
  • Mood disorders with psychosis — Occurs in people with a long history of depression but is less severe than psychotic episodes for people with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder
  • Drug-induced psychosis — Occurs when taking methamphetamine, Adderall, cocaine, or marijuana but stops when drug use stops
  • Some medical conditions — These cases are rare

Psychosis Symptoms

During a psychotic episode, you may:

  • have distorted thinking and have thoughts that are not real (delusions).
  • see or hear things that no one else can (hallucinations).
  • have problems understanding what is and is not real.
  • have disorganized behavior or do dangerous, impulsive activities, such as wandering into a busy street.

The length and severity of a psychotic episode will differ for each person. Most people will get better after a psychotic episode and return to a stage where they either no longer have psychotic symptoms or their symptoms have decreased in severity.

What Triggers a Psychotic Episode?

Psychosis can be triggered by stress much like many other mental health disorders. The other trigger for psychosis includes not taking your medication regularly or abruptly stopping your medication, which could cause a potentially severe case of rebound psychosis.

Testing for Psychosis

If a patient has psychotic symptoms, our specialists will run through a list of questions to determine the cause of psychosis.

These questions may include:

We will also run basic lab tests, such as urine drug screens and blood tests, to screen for underlying medical conditions such as metabolic or thyroid disorders.

Find a Mental Health Specialist

Psychosis Treatments & Services

Like other mental illnesses, treatments for psychosis include medication and therapy. Anti-psychotic medications are used to treat delusions and hallucinations. Symptoms related to the mental illness that is linked to the psychosis will be treated with behavioral and occupational therapy.

HMHI has several clinics that provide outpatient therapy and medication management for children and adults of all ages with psychosis:

If your psychotic symptoms are severe and you need help right away, a mental health professional at the Same-Day Psychiatry Clinic will meet with you the same day that you call. If psychosis is drug-induced, our Addiction Recovery Services support patients with substance use disorders.

Inpatient Care

Inpatient treatment is for individuals facing an acute mental health issue who are unable to remain safe in a less restrictive environment.

During an inpatient stay at University of Utah Hospital, our providers will:

  • monitor patients for safety,
  • clarify diagnoses, and
  • create a treatment plan and medication schedule (if appropriate).

Children & Adolescent Treatment

HMHI offers the following treatments and programs for children and adolescents dealing with psychosis:

How to Help a Loved One

Family members and friends are usually the first to notice when their loved one starts to have psychotic symptoms (e.g., talking to someone who isn’t there, paranoia, or bizarre behavior). Some people with psychosis don't even think they're ill, which can make it difficult for their loved ones to help them stay in treatment or take their medication.

If your loved one continues to have psychotic symptoms, schedule a consultation with one of our mental health specialists for a psychiatric assessment.

Call the Mobile Crisis Outreach Teams (MCOT) if your loved one:

  • won’t go for an assessment,
  • threatens to harm themselves or someone else,
  • acts hostile or aggressive, or
  • can no longer take care of themselves.

In Salt Lake County, the HMHI MCOT will come to your loved one’s home and figure out what they can do to help them during their mental health crisis. 

Resources for Families & Caregivers

Mental Health Crisis Resources

We are here for you when you need us the most. Our team of mental health professionals is trained in:

  • recognizing the signs of psychosis,
  • mental health crisis management,
  • suicide prevention, and
  • emotional wellness.

HMHI provides the following specialty programs and resources for you and your loved ones to prevent mental health crises and provide emotional support when needed.

Contact our CrisisLine