Psychosis affects people of all ages but is more common as people reach young adulthood.
Causes of psychosis
- A psychotic episode can be a symptom of an underlying illness so it is important that medical investigations rule out physical causes such as a severe infection.
- A very stressful event such as losing a close family member or friend.
- The use of illegal drugs such as cannabis.
- A severe mental illness such as schizophrenia or bi-polar disorder.
- Some people may only experience one episode of psychosis, while those suffering from schizophrenia or bi-polar disorder will need ongoing treatment
Symptoms of psychosis
- Thought disorder, muddled thinking and inability to think clearly.
- Can be difficult for others to follow what the sufferer is saying.
- Unusual beliefs known as delusions, themes such as being controlled externally or having special powers are common.
- Hallucinations, visual and or auditory, most commonly hearing voices. The experience is very real to the sufferer and can be very frightening.
- Symptoms can develop gradually and may only by noticed by family and friends.
- Symptoms may develop rapidly and be extremely frightening.
Treatment for psychosis
- The main treatment is with anti-psychotic medications which need to be taken for a period after the psychotic episode.
- CBT based therapy may be offered alongside medication.
- Psycho-education for the student and their family so that they can understand more about psychosis and how to manage the immediate situation and prevent it from coming back.
- If the cause of the episode is illegal drug use specific support around drug use will be required.
- Medical treatment for any underlying medical cause of the psychosis, such as severe infection.
Following a hospital admission
- Some young people may need to be admitted to a specialist unit or hospital. Liaise promptly with the unit or hospital school staff. Attend a discharge planning meeting if possible.
- Meet with the young person and their parents/carers to discuss a return to school plan and to complete an individual healthcare plan.
- Discuss with the student what they want staff and other students to know about their illness.
- Discuss any medication side effects and how the student would like to be supported with these.
- Some students may benefit from a part-time timetable on return to school.
- If possible liaise with the student’s CAMHS team who can offer advice.
Managing school work
- If a student experiences psychosis during exam years 11 and 13 discuss with the student, parents and medical team possible options. For some students deferment or reduction of subjects will reduce stress around catching up on missed work.
- Some students may have impaired cognitive functioning following a psychotic episode. Assess and adjust learning tasks to meet current levels of functioning.
- For some students ongoing symptoms may result in anxiety, appearing distracted or an inability to retain prior learning.
- Be understanding and patient. Recap learning when a student is unable to retain learning.
- Some students may try to mask difficulties, identifying a trusted adult to check in regularly with the student and parent/carers can help.
- Be aware of changes in self-esteem and friendship groups, check in with the student and family early to discuss support and help.