Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust: Healthcare from the heart of your community


Psychosis; mental healthPsychosis is a broad term used to describe symptoms that might cause you to experience or perceive things differently to other people.

It may be that you see or hear things that other people do not or that you have unusual beliefs.

What is psychosis and what are the symptoms:

The two main symptoms of psychosis are:

  • Delusions - unshakable beliefs about things that are not true. People who experience delusions may have non-bizarre delusions, which involve situations that could occur in real life, such as being followed, poisoned, deceived, conspired against, or loved from a distance. These delusions usually involve the misinterpretation of perceptions or experiences.
  • Hallucinations - where a person hears, sees or in some cases, feels, smells or tastes something that is not there. Common hallucinations are:
    • Feeling bodily sensations, such as a crawling feeling on the skin or the movement of internal organs
    • Hearing sounds, such as music, footsteps, windows or doors banging
    • Hearing voices when no one has spoken (the most common type of hallucination). These voices may be critical, complimentary, neutral, or may command someone to do something that may cause harm to themselves or to others
    • Seeing patterns, lights, beings, or objects that are not there
    • Smelling a foul or pleasant odour.

Psychosis is a set of symptoms as oppose to a condition. There are a number of conditions/diagnosis that will have psychotic symptoms:

  • Schizophrenia – a long term condition where you might experience, delusions, hallucinations, muddled thoughts or changes in behaviour. Sometimes a person with you will have difficulty distinguishing your thoughts and experiences from reality
  • Bipolar Disorder - sometimes known as Bipolar Affective Disorder or Manic Depression, this is a condition that affects your moods. You may have periods of depression where you feel very low and lethargic and periods of mania where you feel very high and overactive. The symptoms may also include psychosis
  • Schizoaffective disorder – this is a disorder that is characterised by experiencing psychotic symptoms along with symptoms that can affect your mood
  • Drug induced psychosis – psychotic symptoms are experienced as a result of taking drugs such as cocaine, cannabis, hallucinogens. The symptoms will usually subside when the drug wears off but this is not always the case
  • Postnatal (puerperal) psychosis – also known as post-partum psychosis. This is the experiencing of psychotic symptoms which can last anything from a few days to three months after giving birth. It affects only a small number of women
  • Psychotic Depression - people who have severe clinical depression (sometimes called major depressive disorder) experience hallucinations and delusions
  • Organic Psychosis - is an organic (physical) disease, which causes mental illness. It can either be a disease of the brain (embolism, infection, tumour or trauma), or a more systemic disease in the body, which indirectly affects the brain. Abuse in the form of alcohol, pills or drugs can also trigger an organic psychosis.
  • Delusional Disorder - the main feature of this disorder is the presence of delusions, which are unshakable beliefs in something untrue.

How we can help

Treatment for psychosis involves a combination of antipsychotic medication, psychological therapies and social support.

The nature of your symptoms will determine how we can help you.

It is most likely that you will have discussed your symptoms with your GP in the first instance, who can refer you to our services.

If this is the case you will be offered a telephone triage assessment by our Common Point of Entry team to determine what immediate support you might need and what is the best care pathway for you.

You may be offered an assessment by a Psychiatrist or be referred to the Community Mental Health Team.

There is a Community Mental Health Team within each of our six localities which offer a variety of treatments including psychological, medication and practical support.

If you urgently need support or feel that you are no longer able to safely manage your symptoms, you should contact the Crisis Service for advice and support or attend the A&E department.