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Giving First Aid To Psychosis

Aug 7, 2008
Psychosis is a generic psychiatric term to define a condition in which a person is often described as having a "loss of contact with reality". People suffering from psychosis may experience hallucinations or delusions that they believe are real, thought disorders, and may behave unusually or bizarrely without realizing it. You have to know that Psychosis is different from psychopathy.

Psychosis may be caused by purely psychological conditions (such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder) or non-psychological conditions (such as neurological disorders and psychoactive drug and alcohol use).

When you know someone suffering from psychosis, there are a few things that you can do to help him. The most important thing to remember is that you should always be gentle and patient with him. A person who is experiencing psychosis may feel reluctant to discuss it because he fears what others will think or may not realize that he needs help.

Before approaching the person, you should first see whether it is safe to do so. Find a place where you can talk without getting distracted. Tell him why you are worried about him but avoid talk of mental illnesses as it may frighten him. If he does not want to talk to you, do not pressure him. Just tell him that you are available if he needs you.

Once he is ready to talk to you, listen to him carefully. Allow him to talk about his experiences at his own pace, even if it seems unusual to you. Remain respectful and avoid being judgmental. A person suffering from psychotics may find it hard to distinguish reality from illusions, so it does not help to tell him that he wrong. Instead of blaming or criticizing, it helps to empathize as it can comfort him. Accept his reality and do not argue.

You also need to know that a person suffering from psychosis may find it hard to think clearly even though his intelligence is not affected by the illness. So you may need to give him a little extra time to absorb and respond to what you say, even if he understood you perfectly well. He may also seem to show little emotional reaction, but inside they may feel strong emotions.

If you think that the person needs professional help, discuss it with him. Ask him if he had ever experienced this before and what helped them. Find out what will help him this time. Encourage him to contact his family or friends that can support him when he gets professional medical treatment. If he does not want help, do not force him. Remain friendly and be open to the possibility that he will seek help in the future.

In cases where a crisis arises and you think that the person is at risk of being harmed or harming themselves or others, you should call for medical assistance immediately. Let them know the seriousness of the situation and describe to them what is happening. Also if you can, find out if there is anyone that the person can trust and might be able to help.

If the situation gets too risky or you may feel your safety is being threatened, check how to leave and keep yourself safe. If you need to, call the police and describe the situation to them. However, you should always stay calm. Do not make any sudden movements that can possibly threaten the person or things may get complicated.

The truth is while psychosis can be a serious matter, it can be helped. The key is to be calm, caring, and patient. If you lend a helping hand, you may make a big difference in someone's life.
About the Author
Ronen David is the chairman of "Malam" (an Israeli organization supporting and representing those dealing with mental disabilities). He is the author of the "How to Cope With Psychosis & Schizophrenia Self Help Handbook".
Visit his web site and learn Coping With Schizophrenia
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