If you’re hearing voices or have really strong beliefs everyone else is dismissing, it could be psychosis. The Mix explains how to help yourself or help someone else going through this.

Close up of a girl looking up

Feeling confused about what's real and what's in your head?

What is psychosis?

Psychosis is experiencing or believing things that other people don’t. Though psychosis isn’t a mental health condition in itself, it can be associated with bi-polar or schizophrenia. That said some people can just have a one-off psychotic episode, triggered by a traumatic event or grief. There’s increasing evidence that smoking cannabis, especially during your teens, can trigger psychosis.

Signs of psychosis:

  • Hearing, seeing, smelling, touching or even tasting things that others can’t – known as sensory experiences
  • Believing something that everyone else seems to think is untrue. This includes paranoia, like thinking people are out to get you – known as beliefs, or thinking you’re much more important and awesome than everyone else
  • Your thoughts are all over the place, this can involve speaking really quickly and making strange connections between things

People often think ‘psychotic’ means violent. But experiencing psychosis, or having a psychotic episode, doesn’t mean someone is dangerous – violence is actually pretty rare.

I think I may be experiencing psychosis – how can I get help?

If you’re repeatedly experiencing things or believing things that no one else is, go and talk to your GP.

You might see strange things or hear voices if you’ve taken drugs, haven’t slept in a long time, or have an illness or fever, so your doctor will ask questions about your general health and lifestyle as well.

If they think there’s a psychological reason why you’ve been experiencing psychosis you’ll be referred to a psychiatrist for a proper diagnosis.

Psychosis isn’t something you have to go through on your own. Your friends and family will probably have already noticed your behaviour has changed and will be relieved to hear you talk about it. There can be some stigma to psychosis, so if you’re nervous about telling someone, give SANEline a call to talk it over in confidence first. You can also talk online or find a support group at the Hearing Voices Network.

Voices are making me want to hurt myself

Some sensory experiences, particularly voices, can be really nasty and make you self-harm, or even think about killing yourself. If you’re worried you’re in immediate harm, go straight to A&E. If you need to talk to someone, call the Samaritans on 08457 909 090.

I think someone I know is having a psychotic episode – what should I do?

It can be scary and hard dealing with someone suffering with psychosis, especially if their beliefs are so convincing they don’t think they have a problem. But there are things you can do to help them (and yourself), including:

  1. Talk to them:You may know what they’re experiencing isn’t ‘real’, but the way this is making them feel is real, so try to be understanding. Focus on asking them how they’re feeling instead of dismissing what they tell you. Listen and show sympathy, you don’t have to agree with what they’ve experienced or believe to help them.
  2. Encourage them to see their GP: Offer to go with them if needs be, or reassure them that the doctor will be on their side.
  3. If they won’t see their GP:Their nearest relative can book an appointment with their GP, write to them explaining the situation or contact social services. If you think they’re a danger to themselves, you can try to get them sectioned, or in an emergency situation, take them straight to A&E.
  4. Get support yourself:Talk to people you trust, or give SANE a call. It can feel like all of the responsibility is on you, but you can’t deal with this on your own.

Watch: psychosis video

22 year old Loga Suren developed psychosis in her teens. She teamed up with the charity Fixers to make this film about a young man who begins to experience delusions, but manages to get help.

Next Steps

  • SANE offers support and information to people affected by mental illness. Call their helpline on 0300 304 7000, open 4:30pm - 10:30pm every day.
  • Anyone can contact the Samaritans on their 24-hour helpline to talk things through. 116 123
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.


Updated on 29-Sep-2015