Psychosis may be caused by changes in brain chemicals or structures. It can occur with:

  • Psychological conditions such as
    • Schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder
    • Bipolar disorder, severe depression, and some personality disorders
  • Medical problems such as:
    • HIV and AIDS, malaria, and infections
    • Alzheimer and Parkinson disease
  • Some medicines, or abuse of alcohol or illegal drugs
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Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of psychosis are:

  • A family history of severe mental illness
  • Brain problems
  • Problems during pregnancy or birth
  • Loss of parent during childhood
  • Poor family functioning
  • Substance abuse



Symptoms of psychosis can vary. They may include:

  • Hallucinations—hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, or feeling things that are not there
  • Delusions—unusual or false beliefs
  • Paranoia—unjustified mistrust of others
  • Confusion
  • Sudden changes in mood or odd behavior


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. The doctor will ask about use of substances. This includes alcohol use, illegal drugs, medicines, supplements and herbs. A mental health exam will be done.

Blood and urine tests will be done. This is to check for substances or imbalances in the body.



Treatment of psychosis depends on the cause. If the underlying cause is a health problem, medicine, or substance, it will need to be addressed. Treating the health problem, or stopping the medicine or substance will often manage the condition.

Hospital care may be needed until the condition is managed. Options may be:

  • Counseling, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy—to help with coping
  • Family therapy—to help the family cope
  • Support groups—to talk to others with similar problems
  • Medicines, such as:
    • Antipsychotics—to reduce abnormal thinking
    • Antidepressants
    • Antianxiety medicines
    • Mood stabilizers


Preventing psychosis depends on the cause. Certain conditions raise the risk. Managing those conditions may reduce it.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.