Psychosis and Bipolar Disorder (Secondary School)
Psychosis - what is it ?
Psychosis is a combination of seeing things, hearing things and believing things that other people cannot.Young people with Psychosis might hear or see things that aren’t there (‘hallucinations’) , feel irrational fear, feel out of touch with reality, or believe things that don’t make rational sense (‘delusions’). This might for example take the form of being convinced that other people are watching them or trying to harm them . People can have a one-off ‘psychotic episode’ where they experience symptoms for a period of several weeks. Some people can have one episode and never have another, while other people might experience more episodes.
People might also experience some of these symptoms due to high levels of stress and anxiety, and it can be associated with heavy drug use and depression. If you are concerned your child or young adult is showing signs of psychosis, see your GP or try to persuade them to see your GP as soon as possible, but don't panic as there is a lot that can be done to help. Note also that some people hear voices but are otherwise fine and functioning normally - see below for some more information on this.
Medication (‘anti-psychotics’) can be used to treat psychosis. People are also offered cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for psychosis.
Bipolar disorder -what is it ?
Bipolar disorder is associated with severe mood swings which can last for days or weeks at a time. The person affected often doesn't realise that they are unusually high or low and may have irrational or risky behaviour. Sometimes people who have experienced high stress or trauma also get mood swings but these more typically often go up and down in the course of one day. In severe cases bipolar disorder may have psychotic features such as hallucinations or delusions (see Psychosis above). In such cases medication may be needed to help bring the condition under control. However many people with Bipolar Disorder can learn to spot the warning signs and manage their condition effectively.
See Bipolar UK below for some useful information on this condition.
A good clear summary of Psychosis, common symptoms and what can be done to treat it
here, and a similar summary of Bipolar Disorder here
Information and support groups for young people with bipolar. This link takes you straight to the information for family and friends page. All services including helplines and online chat are available to young people, but also to parents and anyone else supporting someone with bipolar disorder.
There is a helpful leaflet called "Could mood swings mean bipolar?" and one specifically about children and young people.
Royal College of Psychiatrists
Information for parents, carers and anyone who works with young people. This includes a story of Luke, aged 16, talking about his experience of Psychosis here and a video about Bipolar Disorder here
My son or daughter is hearing voices
Not everyone who hears voices is mentally ill, although it can occur as a part of psychosis, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. This page from the charity MIND is a useful starting point.
NICE guidelines for psychosis in children and young people
If Your Adolescent Has Schizophrenia: An Essential Resource for Parents
by Raquel Gur. Helpful for parents of teens with schizophrenia or even if you are worried your child might have schizophrenia.
Living with Psychosis - Recovery and Wellbeing
by Baker and Attwater. This book brings together psychological ideas and personal experience of recovery in relation to psychosis.
Bipolar Disorder - The Ultimate Guide
by Sarah Owen and Amanda Saunders. Well reviewed both by those with bipolar disorder and for those who have a family memeber or partner with the disorder. Well set-out, informative. New edition May 2019.