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psychosis; mental; illness; schizophrenia; schizophreniform; schizoaffective; bipolar; psychotic; depression; disorder; confusion; hallucinations; delusions; feelings; drugs; thoughts;


The word psychosis is used to describe conditions that affect the mind, where there has been some loss of connection with reality.

Around 2 out of every 100 young people will experience a psychotic episode, making it more common than diabetes in young people, and it mostly happens for the first time when a young person is between 15 and 30 years old. Most will recover fully from the psychotic episode, but some will have ongoing problems.


  • Confused thinking. Thoughts become confused and jumbled. It can be hard to think clearly enough to talk logically. It can be difficult for a person to concentrate during a conversation or to remember what is being said. Thinking can be much faster than usual or slowed down.
  • Hallucinations. People experiencing a psychotic illness may see, hear, feel, smell, or taste something that is not actually there. They might hear voices no one else can hear, see things that aren’t there or feel something moving on their skin. They might feel cut off from the world around them, or that everything is unreal.
  • Delusions. Some people experiencing a psychotic illness may hold false beliefs known as delusions (such as that someone is trying to hurt them or control their thinking). A person may be convinced their delusion is real even if those around them challenge it, and they may find evidence that supports their delusion that seems illogical to others.
  • Changed feelings. How a person feels may change for no apparent reason. Some people may experience moods that swing from one extreme to another very quickly. For example, swinging from being very happy to feeling very heavily depressed. Some people’s feelings may seem dampened or flat and they may show less emotion than other people.
  • Changed behaviour. People experiencing a psychotic illness may behave in ways that they did not behave before they became unwell. For example, they may become angry seemingly without cause, be very active, have no energy, have trouble sleeping or eating, have trouble socialising, or be fearful. These behaviours relate to their hallucinations, delusions and disordered thinking.

Symptoms vary from person to person and may change many times during each day.

More information

Orygen Youth Health

Early Psychosis Prevention and Intervention Centre

Better Health Channel

National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre 

What can be done?

A person who is having a psychotic episode needs expert care. It appears that the earlier treatment is started, the better is the long term result for the person.

Treatments for psychosis include

  • antipsychotic medication
  • individual counselling
  • family support
  • practical support

No one chooses to become psychotic. If you have a friend or family member experiencing such problems, try to accept that their behaviour is not deliberate and try to continue to be a kind and supportive friend while they are having these problems.


 South Australia



Information in languages other than English

Mental Health in Multicultural Australia

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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Youth Healthline on 1300 13 17 19 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).
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