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10 Subtle Signs of Psychosis

The stereotype of a psychotic captures only the extreme end of the spectrum.

Wikimedia Commons
Source: Wikimedia Commons

The stereotype of a psychotic person characterizes him or her as someone who is hearing voices that aren't there, who is being told to commit bizarre actions by these voices, who is feeling mentally raped by his or her acquaintances or who is convinced that the CIA is taping his or her conversations.

However, this stereotype only captures the extreme end of the spectrum of psychosis. There are a number of more subtle signs that you or a loved one may be mildly psychotic. Whether the condition is severe enough to seek professional help is a different matter. Here are some less well-known signs that an individual may suffer from a mild case of psychosis. No one symptom suffices for a diagnosis.

  1. Depressed mood can be an indicator of psychosis, particularly if combined with delusional beliefs, misplaced distrust or extreme pessimism.
  2. Anxiety, including social anxiety and restlessness, can be a further indicator, particularly when combined with misplaced distrust or paranoia.
  3. Anger issues, agitation or an irritable mood, particularly after consuming alcohol or taking other substances that disinhibit behavior, can indicate hypomania, a common sign of psychosis. The anger issues can also be grounded in a feeling of grandiosity, a feeling of superiority that others "allegedly" fail to recognize.
  4. Psychosis is often accompanied by sleep abnormalities. The mildly psychotic individual may sleep very little and may suffer from sleep disturbances and frequent nightly wakings.
  5. Hypochondria is itself a form of mild psychosis. The hypochondriac has a deep and ungrounded worry about having or developing a serious mental illness.
  6. Paranoia and suspiciousness are classical traits of psychosis but they can be subtle. The afflicted may feel that most people in their family, social circles or at work are out to get them or hates them, even when the evidence does not support these suspicions. The sufferer may distrust their closest friends or family members.
  7. The distrust of friends and family members may lead to withdrawal from social circles. Sometimes the distrust is disproportional. The sufferer may distrust a family member but be too trusting of a complete stranger or a remote acquaintance. This sort of behavior can result in a lack of an actual support network and aggravate the condition.
  8. Overly rapid speech and racing thoughts can be signs of hypomania, a common specifier of psychosis.
  9. Having a strong need to lead a repetitive or simplified lifestyle and to avoid commitments and to find a complicated lifestyle or living situation stressful can be a specifier of the beginning stages of psychosis.
  10. Other subtle cues that an individual suffers from a mild case of psychosis are flat emotions and a lack of empathy (i.e., the ability to perceive others' feelings and personality). This phenomenon, which is also known as blunted affect, can come across as a form of narcissism. Blunted affect involves a reduced intensity of outward emotional expression and is typically accompanied by a lack of subjective feelings, loss of motivation, and anhedonia (the inability to experience pleasure), except when engaging in some limited and repetitive activities.

Psychosis runs in families. The fact is that psychosis in a person's family may increase the chances that a mild case of psychosis could develop into a full-blown case of mental illness. If you believe that you may suffer from a form of psychosis that could potentially impair your ability to function in your job or at home, seek help from a trained healthcare professional.

More from Berit Brogaard D.M.Sci., Ph.D
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More from Berit Brogaard D.M.Sci., Ph.D
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