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Sectioning Psychosis: Life After a Psychotic Episode

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Every year over 100,000 people will experience a psychotic episode for the first time, and there is a 3% chance that any one of us will experience psychosis during our lifetimes (source). It can be triggered by drugs/alcohol, trauma, or an existing mental illness, and can cause a serious and dramatic shift in a person’s perception of reality.

It is often brief and is something that can be remedied with the right care, but the abruptness and severity of a psychotic episode can leave patients, and their loved ones, in a very difficult position, even when it’s over.

In this guide, we’ll look at some of the ways you, or your loved one, can get back on track after such an episode.

Early Treatment is Important

It’s normal for people suffering from mental health problems to avoid seeking help. They either don’t want to face the truth or they don’t believe they can be helped.

This is also true with psychosis, though even more of a problem, as the very nature of psychosis means they simply don’t believe they need help. They may even convince themselves that the healthcare community is out to get them and therefore can’t help them.

Studies have shown that people suffering from psychosis take over a year to seek help, after which the illness has had time to take hold and may have damaged the patient’s social life, career, schoolwork, or relationships.

The sooner it is treated, the easier it is to manage. As psychotic episodes are far more common in teenagers and young adults, the onus on spotting this issue before it becomes a serious problem often falls on parents. Concerned parents should look for the following early symptoms in their child:

  • More socially withdrawn.
  • Distressed without explaining why.
  • Performing uncharacteristically poor at work or school.
  • Change in sleeping patterns.
  • Showing paranoia or suspiciousness.
  • Auditory or visual hallucinations.

The Acute Phase

The first course of treatment for psychosis is antipsychotic medication. These medications are administered during what is known as the “acute” phase, when the symptoms are at their worst. Patients may need inpatient care at this time, as they may still be in the grip of their delusions and could be a risk to themselves.

A treatment known as “rapid tranquilization” is often used during this phase. This will sedate and subdue patients, giving the medication time to work and ensuring patients do not harm themselves.

Life After a Psychotic Episode

The second phase of treatment is the longest as it can last for over a year. At this point, patients understand what they have been through and have begun to get back to normal, but they still require monitoring and medication in order to avoid a repeat of a psychotic episode.

Patients who do not continue to take medication after a psychotic episode have as much as an 80% chance of relapsing within 12 months, but for those who are medicated the rate drops to just 20% (source).

Medication may only be needed for a year, but it’s important to combine it with other forms of therapy to ensure a multi-pronged approach that greatly reduces the odds of a relapse and helps patients to rebuild their lives.

Studies suggest that the following treatments can help alongside antipsychotic medications:

  • Psychotherapy: This approach can help patients deal with any stress that the psychotic episode caused and any anxiety they feel about leaving care.
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy: Known simply as CBT, this technique helps patients to recognize and analyze their thought patterns, which will allow them to better understand and manage their hallucinations and delusions, potentially preventing those thoughts from getting out of control if they happen to resurface.
  • Family Therapy: This therapy involves working with a counsellor alongside family members. It helps to build a strong system of support in patients’ lives while educating loved ones on the signs and triggers of psychosis.

The good news is that once a period of 12 months has passed and patients have received the right support, the odds of them having a relapse are low. It’s a traumatic event that is sure to have a long-lasting impact on someone’s confidence and anxiety, but there is life after psychosis and countless people have gone on to live full, happy, long lives after such an episode.

If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.

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Bio — Nicky Sarandrea is a freelance writer working for Carla Vista. He writes about addiction, mental illness, and treatments, and when he’s not writing he volunteers some of his time helping with Carla Vista’s sober living in Vegas program.


Photo by David Marcu on Unsplash

The opinions and views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in this article or linked to herein.

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5 thoughts on “Sectioning Psychosis: Life After a Psychotic Episode

  1. Jane says:

    I experienced psychosis for the first time at the age of 49. I was in and out of it during perhaps the most stressful time in my life and while transitioning to menopause. I had a prior diagnosis of a type of c-ptsd. I came out of the psychosis without medication, and it has been close to a year since. What I struggle with now is the aftermath: the shame, the utter shock of it all, and deep depression. Is an antipsychotic drug still recommended if the person has not been in this state for several months? I ask given the potential dangerous side effects of these class of drugs. Would not an antidepressant be enough?

  2. Danielle Leblanc says:

    Hi Jane,

    Thank you for reading and sharing your experience.

    Similar to what the article states, the aftermath is traumatic for the individual, which is why treatment is so important. You were fortunate enough to not need medication. However, treatment is different for everyone and most individuals who experienced psychosis are prescribed an antipsychotic. We are unable to answer specific questions regarding medication management and recommend that you consult with a psychiatrist. I will contact you directly to see if you need personalized help, please check your email.



  3. Jo says:

    I wanted to share that I had a very similar experience to Jane. I had childhood trauma but had lived a very very high functioning life until that point. At 44 I submitted my PhD and went into psychosis. I wasn’t given any anti psychotics either. I had built an unbelievable life even with CPTSD which has now been diagnosed. I am a husk of the beautiful person I was before.

  4. Dan says:

    I had my first psychotic break at 43 after losing my job. My wife was in graduate school and financially we collapsed. Ended up on medicaid and rely on food banks my mind was so depressed. I was let go from my job for strongly acting paranoid. About 6 months later I was hearing voices demean me and a dialog of my own thoughts. Finally my psychologist believed me. Why it was not obvious he say was I did not have the personality for one. Long story short I lost touch with reality and went into psychosis. I was put on one medicine then the 2nd abtipsychotic worked. My life was blown apart, he’ll it still is but I’m in school changing careers. I have my wife and son but my only family member I was close with cut me off and I feel so isolated. I’m working with a psychologist for therapy and psychiatrist for medication. Will I ever be whole again. I no longer hear voices but feel like such a screw up and the trauma of a psychotic episode I think is like ptsd. I feel so alone.

  5. Danielle Leblanc, RtoR.Org Resource Specialist says:

    Hi Dan,

    Thank you for reading and sharing your experience with us as this takes a lot of courage and vulnerability. The aftermath of psychosis can be difficult to cope with as it is traumatic. Luckily, you are working with a Psychologist and Psychiatrist to rebuild your life back. In regards to the family member that cut you off, unfortunately there is still a lot of stigma and misconception of mental health conditions. Hopefully, with time and understanding this family member may come around. You might want to consider participating in a support group with other people who have shared experiences in addition to your professional treatment. This can be a great opportunity to see that you are not alone in feeling the way that you do. I will email you directly with some resources.


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