When we hear the word “psychosis” or “psychotic episode” we often think chronic illness, or a very unwell or disheveled person. These are the severe cases and the people who are unable to function within societal norms. However, this is not always the case. It is more common than you think for people to experience a psychotic episode, particularly during their youth; and there are a number of early signs you can be aware of.

  1. Emotional ups and downs. Have you noticed a sudden change in mood? Have they withdrawn and are refusing to open up to you about why, or maybe they jump from feeling down to feeling extremely energetic, motivated and reckless?
  2. Hallucinations. Are they reporting that they are hearing things or seeing things that nobody else can? Have you heard the individual talking to themselves or getting extremely agitated at unpredictable moments? Hallucinations may include seeing shadows, hearing clicking noises, or voices.
  3. Poor sleeping or eating patterns. Watch for changes in daily activity such as sleeping or eating patterns. Any extremes should raise a red flag. “Too” much or little of anything, e.g. sleeping or eating.
  4. Erratic thoughts and behaviour. Are they finding it difficult to organize their thoughts, or to explain things clearly and logically? Have you noticed a recklessness that you haven’t experienced before? Impulsivity or aggression are behaviours that one may associate with growing up; however, it may also be a bigger issue.
  5. Changes in personality. Have they had a noticeable and sudden change to their personality? This may involve less concern for others, feelings of grandiosity, or displaying changes in their activities, motivation and energy. In young people, this can particularly involve a change in their performance at school and in their friendship groups.

Recognising the early signs is the best way to manage psychosis or other mental health difficulties in young people. Although teenagers are developing and changing consistently during this period of life; a few of these behaviours in combination could be indicative of an ongoing mental health concern.

At VCPS, we run an EarlyCare program that provides no cost assessments for young people who may be showing early signs of psychosis. You can chat with our team in real-time online or give them a call on (03) 9419 7172. We would love to help you with your journey into therapy.

Books we recommend:

  • If Your Adolescent Has Schizophrenia: An Essential Resource for Parents by Tamara L. Kaiser
  • Mind Your Head by Juno Dawson & Olivia Hewitt

Australian Authors

  • Changing Minds: The Go-to Guide to Mental Health for You, Family and Friends by Dr Mark Cross & Dr Catherine Hanrahan

Psychologists we recommend:

View the related Inside VCPS podcast here:

Episode 3 – Youth Psychosis

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