Psychosis is a mental health condition in which a person disengages from reality. He or she may experience hallucinations, hear voices, think he or she is another person, or have disorganized speech or thought processes. The condition is generally treated with antipsychotic medications to eliminate the hallucinations and other symptoms. If left untreated, psychosis can prevent a person from being able to function in everyday life and may lead to injuries or even suicide. There are a wide variety of causes of psychosis, but it is often the result of an underlying physical or mental health issue.
One of the most common causes of psychosis is conditions affecting the brain, such as Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, or Alzheimer’s disease. Huntington’s disease is a genetic condition in which brain cells deteriorate, ultimately causing severe difficulty controlling movement, speaking, or psychosis. Parkinson’s disease is also a degenerative condition that primarily affects the nervous system and causes similar symptoms to Huntington’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease, a brain disease in which brain cells degenerate and ultimately destroy memory, judgment, and other cognitive processes, can also end up causing a break from reality.
Psychiatric disorders are also another one of the possible causes of psychosis. Schizophrenia, a psychiatric disorder in which brain chemicals are imbalanced, typically has psychosis as its main symptom. This detachment from reality can also be a symptom of bipolar disorder, in which moods shift dramatically from depression to mania, but it is not as characteristic of the disorder as it is with schizophrenia. Depression can also cause psychosis, but the break from reality may not be as serious as it is with schizophrenia. A depressed person may be aware that the delusions he or she is experiencing are not actually real, whereas a schizophrenic generally cannot grasp that the hallucinations are not real.
Certain medications may also contribute to the causes of psychosis. Stimulant medications, such as amphetamines, are generally used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder(ADHD) and work by temporarily increasing the amounts of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a brain chemical responsible for a variety of functions, such as controlling attention span, feelings of pleasure, and mood. If dopamine is increased too much, it can result in psychosis. Steroid medications, which imitate the effects of naturally occurring hormones in the body, are used to treat conditions, such as asthma, skin rashes, and arthritis and may cause psychosis as a side effect. Overdosing on drugs, especially cocaine, or abusing alcohol can also cause this detachment from reality.