Psychosis is a mental disorder characterized by a loss of contact with reality. It encompasses a wide range and variety of different symptoms, which include cognition, mood and behaviour. Schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder and delusional disorder are examples of psychotic disorders. However, psychotic symptoms can also be found in other conditions, like bipolar disorder, personality disorder, substance use or depressive disorder. Psychotic disorders can be linked to diverse causes: physical diseases (organic brain disorder), drug use, depressive or manic illnesses. They can also occur as independent disease patterns. The primary symptoms are disorders of cognitive processes and severe disturbances and disorders concerning energy and motivation, feelings and interests.
Psychosis affects both men and women, and usually appears between 15 and 30 years of age. It is estimated that up to 3% of the population may experience psychotic symptoms and 1% will develop a severe psychotic disorder.
In psychosis the affected organ is the brain, resulting in changes in thinking, perception, feelings and behaviour. When this first occurs, we talk of a first psychotic episode. The treatment of psychosis is pharmacological, psychological and rehabilitation, being essential to provide information about the disease to the patient and his family. There is a multidisciplinary team consisting of psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses and social workers dedicated to the treatment planned car more suitable for the patient to regain its normal operation.
Psychotic disorders are common diseases (affecting more than 1% of the population) and for which we have treatment as is in other illnesses such as diabetes, asthma, or hypertension. The essential characteristics of the psychotic disorders emphasizes that the first symptoms usually appear typically during the adolescence and can seriously produce impairment in the functioning of these individuals.
Before the psychotic onset occurs, many patients present unspecific symptoms, called prodromal. In this phase, the symptoms are vague and can go unnoticed for care givers. There may be changes in the way the person describes their feelings, thoughts and perceptions. There can also be a subtle or dramatic change in the lifestyle of the individual. These symptoms should be interpreted as warning signs. Being able to identify these prodromal symptoms by specialists can detect persons at an elevated risk of developing psychosis. This has important implications, as early people suffering from psychosis can then begin a specific treatment which can prevent future impairments and complications, which imply an enormous burden on the quality of life of the patients, as well, as important costs for society.
The treatments that are available today are efficient and can improve symptoms and provide a favorable prognosis, especially when treatment is initiated at early stages of the disease. A good treatment should combine both pharmacological and psychotherapeutic interventions, also taking into account the patient needs and those of their close people. As a result of a comprehensive treatment, the patient can achieve better clinical outcomes and a better quality of life.
However, currently, in most of the cases, treatment isn’t optimal. Psychosis can go undetected for several months before the patients is seen and assessed by a psychiatrist or a psychologist. The delay in care may have devastating effects on the person. Most of the patients who receive attention for psychosis had been experiencing symptoms in the previous months which had been unnoticed by their friends and relatives. As the more time a patient takes to be treated is related to a worse outcome, an early intervention is therefore needed.