Helping your loved one through psychosis

Most of us look around and see the familiar, but for others with severe mental health illness psychosis can be a lonely and confusing place to be.  I will explore here with you an insight into psychosis and what it is like for the individual experiencing this based on someone close to me and I will go on to explore how you can support your loved one through this experience and explain how support for you is equally important.

When someone is in psychosis they see things and hear things that are not there. These experiences are very real to the individual and become part of their daily life. It can be so frightening to the person suffering the psychosis and leave them feeling alone and unable to express what is going on for themselves. Getting help for your loved one under these circumstances is extremely difficult as services are so underfunded. It can seem like you are banging your head against a brick wall. Mental health is invisible and serious mental health conditions such as schizophrenia are not understood by many and this can mean you feel very much isolated, judged and unheard.

Having seen a loved one go through this terrible illness and feeling very much unsupported throughout this process myself has meant that I can fully appreciate how someone going through something similar is being affected by the issues I have just raised. It is difficult for me to go into the full story in the scope of this blog, however, it is important to stress that my loved one was unwell for a very long period of time and got progressively unwell over time.

What is psychosis?

Psychosis is a symptom of an underlying mental health condition where there is a loss of contact with reality.  Individuals may experience hallucinations and delusions. They experience fear because they do not understand what is happening and feel isolated and quite often the individual will not openly share what is going on for them until a crisis occurs.  It is believed that 0.7% of the UK population experience this extreme mental health disorder at any one time and another scary fact is that 75% of mental health issues arise before adulthood. 

Sometimes it is possible to identify the cause through a specific mental health condition such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder but psychosis can also be triggered by extreme stress, trauma, alcohol or substance misuse or side effects of certain prescribed medication.  Psychosis is very individual to the person but some of the symptoms are:

  • Depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Suicidal thoughts and actions
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Sleeping too much or not enough
  • Restlessness
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Disorganised thinking and speech

Getting help

Getting help is essential so talking to your loved ones mental health team or to their GP and explaining what you are witnessing, take them to A and E or call 999 if you are really concerned.  Support from family and friends is paramount to your loved ones recovery.

Getting help for you

You cannot support someone if you are running on empty.  There may be so little support for your loved one that taking time out for you can be extremely rare, especially if you have to hold down a job to pay the bills.  I have had so many people approach me telling me about their son, daughter, granddaughter, niece, nephew, brother, mother, father has serious mental health illness and they feel unable to talk about it with others because of the stigma but if people can start to open up we can remove that stigma.  Early intervention is key to recovery and the stress of accessing that help can be so overwhelming. 

I really hope that writing this blog will help you to come forward and contact me if you are feeling overwhelmed by any of the issues I have raised because I know that talking to a counsellor can really help.  Being able to talk in a confidential and totally non judgemental space with someone who understands from both a personal and professional perspective how it feels to help a loved one with anxiety, depression and psychosis.  Friends and family are well meaning and very valuable in your time of need but more often than not they will give advice that can often come across as critical or judgmental, or they may not fully understand the specific mental health illness. It can really help to talk to someone who is professional and separate from your daily life. Whatever you are feeling or thinking is individual to you and you can explore these feelings in a safe and confidential space.