Psychotic Experiences

Explains psychosis, giving practical suggestions for what you can do and where you can go for help

What is psychosis?

Psychosis (also called a psychotic experience or episode) is when you perceive or interpret events differently from people around you. This could include experiencing hallucinations, delusions or flight of ideas.

Hallucinations

Hallucinations include:

  • Seeing things that other people don’t – such as people’s faces, or other images or visions, like animals or religious figures. You may also see objects that appear distorted, or that move in ways they normally wouldn’t.
  • Experiencing tastes, smells and sensations that have no apparent cause – such as feeling insects crawling on your skin.
  • Hearing voices that other people don’t – these could be positive and helpful, or hostile and nasty. You may hear one voice or many different voices. They could be voices of people you know or be complete strangers. (See Mind’s booklet How to cope with hearing voices for more information.)

“I was hearing people talk but hearing totally different words to what they were actually saying and voices when people weren’t there. I even heard the voice of God. It was distressing and disorientating. I couldn’t say what was real and what wasn’t.”

Delusions

A delusion is a belief that other people do not share. For example, you might believe that you are closely related to the Queen, although you don’t share any relatives. You may also experience delusions of grandeur (thinking you are a very important person) – for example, you may believe that you are very rich and powerful, or control the stock markets or weather.

Some delusions can be extremely frightening and make you feel mistrustful or threatened. For example, you may feel that something or someone is trying to control or kill you. These ideas are called paranoid delusions. (See Mind’s booklet Understanding paranoia for more information).

Flight of ideas

Flight of ideas is when your thoughts move very quickly from idea to idea, making links between things that other people don’t. Doctors may also call this word salad or thought disorder.
If you experience flight of ideas, you might:

  • lose control of your words – speaking very quickly so that other people notice and find it difficult to follow what you’re saying
  • link words together because of the way they sound rather than what they mean – for example, if it starts to rain, you might start to talk about railway trains, then brains or photo frames.

 

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