Signs of Early Serious Mental Illness

Early psychosis, also known as first episode psychosis (FEP), can be frightening and confusing for the person experiencing it. These changes in a loved one can also be distressing for family and friends and difficult to understand. With the significant stressors added to our lives as a result of COVID-19, it’s more important now than ever to know about this condition.

What causes psychosis?

How and why psychosis develops is still being studied. It is thought to be triggered by a mix of genetics (family history) and life stressors during critical stages of brain development. Psychosis can start at any age, yet young adults are at an increased risk due to hormonal changes in the brain that occur during puberty.

Risk factors that may contribute to the development of psychosis include stressors such as physical illness, substance use (marijuana, hallucinogens and stimulant medications) and psychological or physical trauma. Sometimes psychosis can be the start of a more serious condition like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

Whatever the cause, early diagnosis and treatment provide the best hope for recovery.

Signs of Early or First Episode Psychosis

  • Hearing, seeing, tasting or believing things that others don’t
  • Persistent, unusual thoughts or beliefs that can’t be set aside regardless of what others believe
  • Strong and inappropriate emotions or no emotions at all
  • Withdrawing from family or friends
  • Trouble thinking clearly or concentrating
  • Difficulty concentrating, following a conversation, or remembering things
  • A worrisome drop in grades or job performance
  • Suspiciousness or uneasiness with others
  • A decline in self-care or personal hygiene
  • Spending a lot more time alone than usual
  • Confused speech or trouble communicating

Contact a healthcare professional if you or someone you know is experiencing these warning signs. The most important time to connect with the right treatment is early on. Getting help quickly for psychosis is the key to getting life back on course!

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