How to Tell if You’re Having Psychosis

Michael Hedrick
March 14, 2016  | Last Updated: March 13, 2016

In living with schizophrenia for the last 10 years, I’ve become acutely aware of what my brain is telling me. Most of the time it’s nothing more than a twinge of paranoia or anxiety. Maybe I’ll see or hear something that will cause me to question myself and cause me to question the people around me. 


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Are they talking about me? Or “Do they think I’m weird or crazy?”

Most of the time I can let these instances roll past, but every now and again, maybe when I’m dealing with increased stress from work or my relationships, things will start to spiral out of control. 

Psychosis is defined as being so overwhelmed by thoughts or emotions that you start to lose your grip on reality. This can happen in any number of instances, and it’s hard to know exactly when you’re having psychosis. It’s important to be aware of it so that you can take the steps you need to get better. 

That said, you may think you’re having just severe paranoia, but when things start to get complicated it’s probably time to put the brakes on. 

SO how exactly do you know you’re having psychosis? 

Like I said, it’ll probably start with paranoia but then, and this is the point when your alarms should go off, you start making connections or assigning deeper meanings to things that are, in reality, fairly innocuous. 

The way this happens is someone will say something, and you’ll assign the words to a feeling or a thought that you experienced and you’ll believe that the person that spoke is either reading your mind or has been very carefully surveilling you. 


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An example would probably go something like this: Maybe you got into a new relationship and the myriad emotions in that, combined with the stress of work, has been piling on your shoulders. You’re out to dinner with your mom and dad, and you’re dad says “This is great!” Of course he’s referring to his food, but you assign an underlying meaning to it that seems to be saying that he’s saying your new relationship and the work you’re doing is great. You might even say thank you, and he’ll look back at you with a puzzled look. If you’re conscious of the fact that the meaning might not be real, though, you would just stay quiet and there will seemingly be an unspoken tension of acknowledgement. 

Another example would be the fact that the commercials on TV seem pretty parallel to the things that are happening in your life, and you’ll start to believe that whoever produced and programmed the commercials is surveilling you or reading your mind. 

Maybe you just broke up with someone and the first commercial you see when you turn on your TV is a commercial for eHarmony. Normally someone wouldn’t think twice, but you think, isn’t it strange that this commercial came on just as I’m thinking about what happened? Whoever programs commercials must know somehow that I just broke up with someone. 

Essentially psychosis is when you assign meaning to something innocuous and make conclusions about the meaning and what it implies. It can be difficult to know what to do in the moment, but the thing that I’ve found that works best for me is escaping the situation, taking deep breaths to quell the psychosis, and going straight home to take my meds and to relax. 

Psychosis is indicative of some serious stress, and it might be a good idea to take stock of the things that are happening in your life and let go of whatever you need to let go in order to reduce stress. 

It’s so easy to get lost in the fog; I know that all too well. If you’re diligent in your recovery though, and if you take your meds and go to your doctor and do the work you need to do to get better, the instances of psychosis will be less and less profound and frequent. 

I’ve been there. I know what it’s like. You are not alone. 


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