First Episode Psychosis Project


  • Anyone can develop psychosis.

  • Psychosis is common and treatable and affects 3 in 100 people.

  • It usually occurs for the first time between the ages of 15 and 30.

  • It is equally as prevalent in both males and females.

What is psychosis, and what do I need to know about it?

Psychosis is a condition which affects the brain's ability to process information. It keeps our brain from working well and can:

  • Alter perceptions and make things that are not real seem real.
  • Make our thoughts jumbled and speech disorganized and illogical.
  • Change or exaggerate our feelings and emotions towards ourselves,others, or the outside world.
  • Trigger feelings of dread, panic, fear and anxiety as our thoughts and perspectives of reality change.

What causes psychosis?

There are many theories about what causes psychosis but there are no definite answers. Everyone has the potential to develop psychosis, if they don’t sleep for multiple days in a row, develop certain medical conditions, take certain drugs, or if they experience extremely severe and prolonged stress. Psychosis also has a strong genetic component. Individuals whose family members have experienced psychosis will be at greater risk for developing it themselves.


The experience of psychosis varies greatly from person to person. Psychotic disorders rarely emerge suddenly. Most often, the symptoms evolve and become gradually worse over a period of months or even years. The following are some of the more common signs to look for:

Changes in thinking:

  • Everyday thoughts may be confused/jumbled or don’t join up properly
  • Sentences may be unclear or don’t make sense
  • Thoughts are sped up or come very slowly
  • Difficulties planning, reasoning, making decisions, completing tasks, following a conversation, remembering details
  • Having odd ideas

Changes in behavior:

  • Shifts in basis personality
  • Mood changes (i.e., hyperactivity, inactivity, or alternating between the two)
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Severe changes in sleep patterns
  • Deterioration in personal hygiene
  • Excessive writing without meaning
  • Unusual sensitivity to stimuli (i.e., noise, light, colors, textures, etc.)
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
  • Use of alcohol and/or other drug

Changes in feelings and perception:

  • Feeling strange and cut off from the world
  • Feelings of distrust or suspicion about others and their actions
  • Things look or sound different from what others are experiencing
  • The tone in a person’s speech may change from how they usually
  • Facial and body actions may change from how they usually are


  • Hearing, seeing, tasting, smelling or feeling things that are not there, but seem very real to the person experiencing them
  • Hearing voices: the voices could be threatening to them or telling them to harm themselves


  • False beliefs such as being followed or monitored, or having special abilities or “powers”
  • Thinking they are being controlled by other people or forces, or that their thoughts are being broadcast so others can hear them
  • These beliefs are often held firmly, and attempts at reasoning or debating can lead to anger or mistrust

Get Help

If someone you know is experiencing from some of these symptoms, THERE IS HELP. Research shows that the longer psychosis goes untreated, the harder it is to control.

Talk to your doctor. You can also call the Recovery Helpline at 1-866-789-1511 or the Behavioral Health Organization in your area.

Voices of Recovery Video Series

A series of 24 vignettes of consumer and family members, the videos  share inspirational and informative recovery stories focusing on a variety of topics. A manual is also available to help integrate the videos into treatment and training.

Helpful Resources for to Learn more about Early Psychosis Intervention

Resources for Families and Friends

National and International Psychosis Websites and Resources

Resources for Professionals: Early Intervention Treatment Manuals and Toolkits