Sometimes, when we are faced with a major life stressor, such as a trauma, death in the family, accident, or a natural disaster, the mind can react in a severe way. For instance, for a small percentage of the population, psychosis can be the response to a significant life event.
Psychosis is an experience of the mind (psyche) characterized by the loss of contact with reality. It frequently includes having either hallucinations or delusions. A hallucination is a form of sensory experience that others cannot perceive. In other words, it could be an experience of hearing voices or seeing things that others don’t see. Delusions, on the other hand, are false beliefs that an individual continues to believe in despite evidence that disproves the belief. In addition to having hallucinations and delusions, other symptoms of a psychotic episode are disorganized thinking, disorganized speech, unusual behavior or dress, confusion, disturbances in memory, indecisiveness, and changes in weight, sleep, and/or eating habits.
Although a significant life stressor can be the cause of psychosis, at times, psychosis does not have an identifiable cause. In these cases, there are no apparent traumas or related experiences of loss or disaster. For women, a brief psychotic episode might take place right after giving birth. Within 4 weeks of having a baby, females are might experience hallucinations, delusions, or other symptoms of a psychotic episode.
Certainly, the experience of psychosis is overwhelming and frightening, particularly if it is not part of an individual’s regular experience of life. It might feel unmanageable, alarming, and confusing. And it can be so confusing that it might lead to drinking or drug use. As you can imagine, if your mind suddenly becomes untrustworthy, hallucinatory, delusional, or unresponsive in ways it used to be, you might resort to drinking or drug use to feel better.
In fact, there is a large percentage of those who have experienced psychosis that also have an addiction. At the same time, there are many young adults who have experimented with drugs such as LSD or mushrooms and who end up experiencing psychosis because of the effects those drugs have on them. Although it’s hard to pinpoint a causal relationship, some young adults who have used hallucinogenic drugs regularly and who have a propensity for a psychotic illness end up with a lifetime diagnosis of schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder.
However, there’s no question that there is a relationship between drug use and psychosis. For instance, many of the men and women who have been diagnosed with psychotic illnesses, meaning illnesses that have psychosis as a symptom including schizophrenia, have an addiction. It’s tempting to turn to drugs to help drown out hallucinations, like voices, that no one else experiences. A drink is appealing if it’s going to help make the mind more stable. Marijuana is attractive if it’s going to help calm the mind and quiet any heavy self-criticism.
If you are facing the symptoms of psychosis or if you have experienced psychosis in the past, which has contributed to drug use or drinking, a safe choice would be to contact a mental health professional or an addiction treatment agency. Frequently, when a man or woman is treated for addiction, he or she will also be assessed for any underlying disorders. It is very common that both an addiction and mental illness exist simultaneously. If experiences of psychosis continue over time and if someone met the diagnostic criteria, he or she may be diagnosed with schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder. And if this is the case, addiction treatment would also include psychiatric services so that both the addiction and the psychological illness were treated.
For others, psychosis could be a short-term experience that comes on suddenly and lasts for less than one month. In this case, there likely won’t be a diagnosis of mental illness. However, addiction treatment might still include a cautionary visit with a therapist or psychologist to ensure mental health.
Certainly, psychosis can be a frightening experience and it might cause someone to turn to drug use or drinking. However, with the right preventative measures, the substance use doesn’t have to turn into an addiction.
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