Why are we afraid to talk psychosis?

Imagine you have been in a long deep sleep, filled with far fetched dreams-maybe even nightmares.  Did you ever wake up and say, “Wow!  That dream was so real.”  And maybe it takes a little while to regain your sense of consciousness.  To decipher between what was a dream and what was not.

Now imagine, you’re awake and your mind begins to have an altered reality.  You’re thinking and believing things that aren’t really true.  Maybe you believe the world is coming to an end or everyone is trying to kill you.  Paranoid about everyone and everything.  The mind you relied on to take you to a high level of success is now playing mean and cruel tricks on you.  But it’s all too real.  You can’t tell you’re brain is malfunctioning.

People are starting to look at you strangely.  You’re still perceptive and know they’re looking at you, questioning your sanity.  But that only adds to your paranoia.  The filters you have are gone.  Everyone is surely out to get you.

Then, to make matters worse, you hear a voice in your head.  A voice that’s not an inner voice of wisdom, but an extra voice intended to confuse you.  But only you know it’s there and no one else knows you are hearing it.  It’s as real to you as you are breathing.

Now add a sprinkle of mania to those thoughts.  Not only are the thoughts not based in reality, they’re coming faster and faster.  Only you can interpret what is going on in your own mind and now it’s off kilter.  The reality mirrors have broken.  There is no waking up from a bad dream.  It’s now a real live nightmare and those who love you are freaking out.  They can see you, but you can’t see yourself.

The real problem begins when you start acting on what you believe.  The thoughts start turning into actions.  The actions are bizarre and out of character.  Loved ones start to get scared.

It’s a medical condition to have a psychotic episode.  Yet our culture treats it like a scene in a bad horror movie.  Did you ever notice the bad guys are usually the person with mental illness who escapes from a mental institution?  The person with a mental illness is often portrayed as the deranged killer.  And here it comes…the words are finally uttered…he’s a psycho.  Psycho.  The really bad personalized word for a person having a psychotic episode.

For the most part, people who have not had any experience with a loved one who has a severe mental illness, like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or PTSD, will not have any understanding of psychosis, and even then, many loved ones really don’t understand either. The media does well to play over and over when a person with mental illness commits a crime, but they do very little to explain the most severe mental illnesses.  The most severe symptoms.

But yet, we are all still so afraid to have a real live conversation about psychosis.  Those of us who have experienced psychosis are scared to step-up and explain what happened during an episode.  We don’t want to be labeled as crazy, whacko, looney, psycho or nuts.  All disparaging words that do little to explain the malfunction of the brain.  That’s right.  The brain is responsible for how we think, feel and behave.  It’s the control center for our bodies.  But we treat it with so little respect.  And when it makes a misstep we label it with nasty words.

I contend we don’t talk about psychosis because we are afraid.  And that fear is perpetuated by our silence.  This is why we need more people to speak up about what it’s like to experience a psychotic episode.  Survivors testimonies are the key to better understanding, improved treatment and a cultural shift.

We fear what we don’t understand.  I write to help people understand.  I write to stop the silence.  I write because I care.

13 thoughts on “Why are we afraid to talk psychosis?

  1. I’ve written a bit about psychosis on my blog, in the form of my past experiences. I’ve also tried to defend the mentally ill who are victimized during episodes of psychosis and/or mania. There are always some people that don’t really like to read about the ugly aspects. And of course there are people that will not see it fully as an illness like cancer, but only as a kind of crime.

    I’ve lost all of my friends because of my bipolar disorder. My grandmother, who also had bipolar, may have kept some friends, but was ridiculed for her behavior during psychosis. We’d like to think that most people wouldn’t do that anymore, but they still do.

    You surely know that some of us eventually gain insight into our psychosis, while others (like my grandmother) never will/did. They themselves are even non believers in that type of illness.

    Though I remember some of my psychosis, a lot I don’t. I had what is often called manic blackouts.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for sharing. I am sorry your illness cost you friendships, but unfortunately I can relate. People just don’t understand Psychosis is an illness, it’s not something we brought on ourselves. You have a really good perspective–glad you are blogging to share it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for another good article, Amy. Psychosis is frightening. Like you, I wish people would understand that the person experiencing it is much more frightened than those who witness it, needing their help, not their ridicule.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great article. We are still understanding, this is all new to our family. It helps to understand what each of us might be feeling, for example my son who is going through the psychosis and us what we are observing what’s happening. I would love more insight into how to deal with him when he’s delusional – what to say, what not to say, when to ask questions, when to just let him be, how to dissuade him from doing something not good for him like drinking or smoking.


    1. Nina—those are all great questions. I would suggest taking a Mental Health First Aid class and you’ll walk away with a better understanding and tips on how to talk to someone who’s experiencing Psychosis. I can say it’s best not to challenge the delusions, try not to take delusional comments personally and try to talk to your son when he is sober and well. Come up with an agreed upon plan in the event he does get sick and remind him he agreed to the plan. Try to encourage your son to learn as much as he can about his diagnosis so he can recognize the symptoms as they first start to happen. Also, you might consider getting in touch with a NAMI in your area they support family members. Hope this helps. Amy


  4. Hi Amy,
    Great article! I was wondering, however, if anywhere on your blog you discuss the cognitive deficits experienced by a lot of individuals struggling with bipolar disorder, particularly those who have endured multiple manic/ psychotic episodes. I personally have gone through over 5 manic psychotic episodes and have since noticed a severe decline in my cognitive abilities (eg. can’t follow a story line when watching TV, trouble with processing longer sentences in conversation, severe memory issues- can’t even remember what I did yesterday). Is there any hope of returning back to “normal” in these cognitive regards?


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi…thanks for commenting. I do know that one of the ill effects of having bipolar disorder is cognitive impairment. Memory loss is probably one of the biggest complaints of those who have bipolar disorder. I think you bring up a great point..that would be a good subject for a blog post.

      Liked by 1 person

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