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Psychosis can cause people to interpret the world around them differently.

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What is psychosis?

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More common than we may think, ‘psychosis’ is not an illness but a broad clinical term that embodies a range of symptoms in which our thoughts, perceptions, behaviors or feelings become disrupted. Psychosis can trigger misinterpretation or confusion when interacting with the world, which can feel disorienting and cause distress.

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Psychosis is sometimes related to a serious mental illness but experiences of psychosis can occur for other reasons such as with substance use or with certain medical conditions.

Many people see or hear things that others don’t, and anyone can experience psychosis.

When psychosis symptoms cause you significant distress or are interfering with living the life you want, that is time to connect with help, like that found at a Pennsylvania First Episode Psychosis Center.

Early or first-episode psychosis (FEP) refers to the initial time someone starts to have psychosis symptoms, like hearing things that other people don’t or having unusual beliefs that others don’t share, which are bothersome and can interfere with relationships with family or friends, or with school or work. 

Psychosis symptoms can come and go, and can vary in intensity over time. The length of an episode varies greatly from person to person, lasting anywhere from a few hours to a few days, weeks or months. Acting quickly to connect with the right treatment during this time of early psychosis, or FEP, can help shift the trajectory of long-term outcomes.

Experiencing psychosis may feel scary and isolating, but recovery is possible. If you or someone you know is struggling it is important not to wait, but to seek help early. We know that the earlier people seek care, the better the chances they will get back on track and achieve their life goals.



The pink button “Watch Video” link will take you a short video is from Living Well with Schizophrenia, a channel dedicated to increasing knowledge around schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and mental illness.

What does psychosis feel like?

While psychosis feels unique to different people, many have described the early recognizable symptoms as their mind playing subtle tricks on them, the world becoming out of focus, or an inability to “think straight.”   

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The experience of psychosis varies for everyone. Some common experiences that may mean you are experiencing psychosis include:

  • Hearing, seeing, tasting, smelling or feeling things that others don’t.
  • Having troubling, unshakable beliefs.  Common beliefs include thoughts such as, “people are against me,” “people want to hurt me,” “others can read my mind,“the Internet, TV or music is sending me special messages,”  “I have special powers/abilities.
  • Difficulty concentrating, organizing thoughts or expressing emotions.
  • Trouble understanding what you are reading or what people are saying to you.
  • Having extra energy which may keep you awake for days.
  • Feeling disconnected or withdrawn from friends and family.
  • Losing interest in everyday activities or caring for yourself.

Common Misconception

Psychosis is a disease

Psychosis is a symptom, not a disease. Many people see or hear things that others don’t and many people can experience psychosis. Psychosis is a problem when it is causing you or someone close to you significant bother or harm. These symptoms, which often show up in teens and young adults, include changes in perceptions, beliefs, thoughts and behaviors. This can be stressful and may make it challenging to engage in work or school activities.

Common Misconception

People with psychosis are dangerous

People experiencing psychosis sometimes behave in ways that seem strange to others, and sometimes others think this makes a person dangerous or violent. While people experiencing psychosis can, and sometimes do, engage in violent behavior, they are not more likely to do so than anyone else. Psychosis can be scary, but help is available. Connect to a first-episode psychosis program near you as soon as possible.

Explore stories from others with psychosis

Common Misconception

I can’t tell anyone about this, I am all alone

Being concerned about sharing what you are experiencing is normal. It can be hard to talk about things that are scary or make you feel different. Take a moment to think about people in your life whom you trust and make you feel better, safe and loved. They can be a family member, teacher, good friend or just someone in your community you feel safe talking to. These people care about you and want to support you. You can also reach out to any of our PA First Episode Psychosis Centers, where a team of people offer specialized care for people who experience psychosis. Psychosis is more common than you may think, and you are not alone.

See ways to tell others

What is Psychosis?

Watch this video to learn more about psychosis.

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