5 Stages of Psychosis

Exploring 5 Stages of Psychosis and Treatment

Psychosis is a mental health condition characterized by a loss of contact with reality. This can manifest in various ways, such as hallucinations and delusions.

While the exact causes of psychosis are not fully understood. It is believed to result from a combination of genetic, biological, and environmental factors. It often emerges in young adulthood, typically in the late teens to mid-20s, but can occur at any age.

Healthy Mind Maryland provides individualized care, therapy, medication management, and community-based mental health resources.

Let’s look into details about what are the 5 stages of psychosis.

Who Develops Psychosis?

5 Stages of Psychosis

Estimating psychosis prevalence is challenging, but studies suggest 15 to 100 per 100,000 develop it yearly. Psychosis can be a symptom of various disorders, impacting individuals and their communities. Early identification and treatment can improve outcomes.

5 Stages of Psychosis

When someone experiences a psychotic disorder, it is often seen as having three stages: early, acute, and recovery. But, looking at psychosis as a five-stage process reveals a deeper complexity. It shows that the path to recovery is not always straightforward.

First Stage: Recognizing Early Signs

In this stage, symptoms can be similar to other mental health issues, making it hard to identify.
Symptoms may include depression, withdrawal, sleep disturbances, changes in appetite, and trouble concentrating.
There may also be signs like magical thinking or suspicion, which are less commonly associated with stress.
Some individuals may seem upbeat, which could be mistaken for hypomania. It’s important to be aware of these symptoms to prevent further progression.

Second Stage: Full-Blown Psychotic Episode

The critical or acute period is when a person experiences a full-blown psychotic episode, losing touch with reality. This can include hallucinations, delusions, and unusual behavior. These symptoms can be alarming to others, but negative symptoms might be less obvious and can lead to delayed treatment.

Third Stage: Recovery and Self-Reflection

Traditionally seen as recovery, this stage involves understanding and accepting vulnerability. The individual may struggle with their feelings and societal views on psychosis. Acceptance of vulnerability can be challenging, especially if it’s not the first episode.

Fourth Stage: Acceptance and Treatment

In this stage, motivation might be a challenge as the individual begins treatment. Finding the right medication dosage and balancing side effects can be difficult. Family and friends may be protective of the individual’s ability to test their capabilities.

Fifth Stage: Understanding and Coping

In the end stage, people understand their condition better and learn to spot early signs, but it doesn’t mean they won’t have more episodes. It might take a while to get there, but it helps them manage their condition. Looking at psychosis in five stages helps us understand the recovery journey better.

Signs and Symptoms of Psychosis

Psychosis is a mental health condition that alters a person’s thinking, emotions, and behavior. It can be a distressing experience for those who have it and for those around them. Understanding the signs and symptoms of psychosis can help identify it early and get the right support.

  1. Delusions
    These are false beliefs that are not based on reality. For example, a person may believe that they are being followed, or that they have special powers.
  2. Hallucinations
    These involve seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not actually there. For instance, a person may hear voices when no one is around, or see things that others cannot see.
  3. Disorganized thinking
    People with psychosis may have trouble organizing their thoughts or following a conversation. Their speech may be difficult to understand, and they may jump from one topic to another.
  4. Disorganized behavior
    This can range from unpredictable and inappropriate actions to a complete lack of response. For example, a person may dress inappropriately for the weather or situation, or they may appear catatonic, showing no movement or response.
  5. Negative symptoms
    These refer to a decrease in the ability to function normally. This can include a lack of motivation, social withdrawal, and a decrease in the ability to experience pleasure.
  6. Changes in mood
    People with psychosis may experience sudden and extreme changes in mood, such as becoming agitated, irritable, or overly excited for no apparent reason.
  7. Cognitive difficulties
    This can include problems with memory, concentration, and decision-making.

Early warning signs of psychosis can include:

  • Suspiciousness or paranoia: Feeling like others are out to get them or are watching them.
  • Social withdrawal: Spending more time alone and avoiding social activities.
  • Decline in functioning: A noticeable decline in performance at work, school, or other areas of life.
  • Sleep disturbances: Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much.
  • Mood changes: Sudden changes in mood, such as feeling more irritable or depressed than usual.
  • Changes in personal hygiene: Neglecting personal hygiene and grooming.
  • Unusual beliefs or behaviors: Expressing strange or unusual ideas or behaving in a way that is not typical for them.

It’s important to note that experiencing some of these symptoms does not necessarily mean a person has psychosis. However, if symptoms are severe or disrupt daily life, seek help from a mental health professional. Early intervention can lead to better outcomes for people with psychosis.

What Causes Psychosis?

Several factors contribute to psychosis, or disconnection from reality.

Genes play a big role in causing psychosis. Some people might have genes that make them more likely to have psychotic disorders. But having these genes doesn’t mean a person will definitely have psychosis.

Environment is another factor. People with certain genes might only develop psychosis if they go through stressful situations or traumas.

Changes in how the brain develops can also lead to psychosis. When parts of the brain that deal with senses and emotions are affected, it can cause symptoms of psychosis.
Problems with chemicals in the brain, like dopamine and glutamate, are also linked to psychosis.

Psychosis is often connected to mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and severe depression. But it can also happen to people without these disorders, which shows how complex it is.
In older adults, psychosis can be a sign of other health issues like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease, making it harder to diagnose and treat.

Not getting enough sleep can raise the risk of psychosis because it affects how the brain works. Certain medications, when used the wrong way or in large amounts, can also cause psychosis. Misusing drugs like cannabis, hallucinogens, and stimulants can change how the brain works and cause psychotic experiences.

Stages of Schizophrenia

Prodromal Stage: This is the early stage of schizophrenia. Symptoms may include social withdrawal, unusual behavior, and sleep disturbances. These symptoms can be subtle and may be mistaken for other issues.

Acute Stage: This is when the full symptoms of schizophrenia become more pronounced. Hallucinations, delusions, disorganized thinking, and erratic behavior are common. This stage often requires hospitalization and intensive treatment to manage symptoms.

Residual Stage:After the acute stage, some symptoms may persist, but they are less severe. In this stage, individuals may experience mild hallucinations or delusions.
However, with support, they can typically manage daily activities. Long-term treatment and support are essential in this stage to prevent relapse.

These stages can vary in duration and intensity for each individual, and not everyone will experience all three stages in the same way. Early diagnosis and treatment improve long-term outcomes for schizophrenia.

How Is Psychosis Treated?

Psychosis is often untreated for a long time, but getting help early can help a lot. Professionals like psychologists, psychiatrists, or social workers diagnose and plan treatment.

The main treatment is antipsychotic medication, which has different types and side effects. It’s important to work closely with a healthcare provider to find the best medication with the fewest side effects.

As part of treatment, coordinated specialty care is also given, in which a group of people help with different parts of the condition. This approach prioritizes recovery and allows specialists, psychosis patients, and their families to collaborate on care.

Starting treatment early with coordinated care when symptoms first appear can lead to better outcomes. Early intervention is important for managing psychosis and promoting long-term recovery.

What Are the 3 Stages of Psychosis

Prodrome Stage:This is the first phase of psychosis. People may have gradual changes in their thoughts, behaviors, and how they function.
Psychosis can cause concentration problems, overwhelm, withdrawal, sleep disturbances, mood swings, and irritability.
Not everyone will experience these changes, and this phase can last from several months to over a year.

Acute Stage: In this stage, the main psychotic symptoms become more obvious. These can include hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t real), delusions (strong beliefs not based in reality), disorganized speech, and odd behavior. These experiences can be distressing and disrupt daily life. It’s important to get treatment early, as it can help improve outcomes.

Recovery Stage: This stage usually starts a few weeks or months after treatment begins. Symptoms often decrease in intensity and frequency, and some people may no longer have symptoms at all. People in this stage often find it easier to cope with daily life and may start to get back to work, school, or social activities. While some symptoms may continue, most people can fully recover with the right treatment and support.

Treatment for Psychosis

Treating psychosis means helping each person in a way that works best for them. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Psychosis (CBTp) is one way to do this.
It helps people deal with confusing thoughts, handle symptoms, and learn new ways to cope. Doctors also use medicines to help balance brain chemicals and reduce symptoms.
Treatment plans should be made just for the person, using therapy, medicine, and other support to get the best results.
Early intervention programs try to help quickly after the first episode to improve long-term results.
Family support, education, and community resources can also make treatment work better. Researchers are always learning more to give the best care to everyone.

Let’s Wrap up,  5 Stages of Psychosis and Treatment

As a person goes through psychosis, they often lose touch with reality, which can manifest as hallucinations and false beliefs.
Knowing the five stages of psychosis can help you get better, which can be hard at times.
Medications and therapy help control symptoms and speed up recovery over time. Early detection and intervention improve outcomes.
With the right help and a personalized treatment plan, people with psychosis can live their whole lives and handle the challenges of their illness well.

At Healthy Mind Maryland we have outpatient mental health centers where people of all ages can get a lot of different mental health services in one place.


Can you recover from psychosis?

Yes, recovery from psychosis is possible with appropriate treatment. However, the process varies for each individual.

What is the recovery phase of psychosis?

The recovery phase of psychosis involves stabilization of symptoms and rebuilding of functioning. It focuses on rehabilitation, therapy, and support to enhance overall well-being.

What are some examples of psychosis?

Psychosis examples include hallucinations, delusions, disorganized thinking, and disorganized behavior. Psychosis can occur as a symptom of various mental health disorders and illnesses.

What is the typical psychosis recovery time?

The time it takes to recover from psychosis differs for everyone. Some may feel better in a few weeks or months, but others might need more time and support to get better.

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