PEACE: Psychosis Education, Assessment, Care and Empowerment

WHAT IS Psychosis?

Psychosis is a symptom, and not a diagnosis. Psychosis refers to a set of experiences that relate to finding reality confusing or unclear. For some people, psychosis is subtle, and they are simply unsure if certain events or experiences are real. For other people, psychosis can be more extreme, and they may hear voices, have visions, or believe things to be real that other people do not. Some people are aware that their experiences are not real, even though they feel real. Some people don’t know that the experiences are not real. In both cases the person can have psychosis.

Psychosis can be related to lots of different conditions or diagnoses. For some people, psychosis is something that happens once and not again, and for others, once psychosis starts, it doesn’t fully go away. Psychosis occurs on a continuum from normal experience (like hearing voices before falling asleep, or wondering if classmates are laughing about them at school), to severe experiences (like believing things that are untrue but cause someone to act on those beliefs in a way they wouldn’t otherwise act). Regardless of why someone has psychosis, or how long they are going to have it, programs like PEACE can help people to get back to lives of their choosing.

Signs and Symptoms
What does psychosis feel like?

Signs and Symptoms

Signs of psychosis are what other people may notice about you. Some of these can happen very early, before you become aware of symptoms of psychosis.

  • CHANGES IN YOUR APPEARANCE Others may notice that you are dressing differently, or that you are not cleaning yourself or your clothes as often as usual
  • NEW BEHAVIORS OR CONVERSATION TOPICS THAT ARE UNUSUAL FOR YOU Friends or family might become concerned by what you are talking about recently
  • Family and friends may notice you aren’t sleeping as much, or your energy seems really high
  • Others might be worried about new behaviors, like pacing, looking out of windows a lot, or talking to yourself
  • DIFFERENCES IN HOW YOU SPEND TIME WITH OTHERS Friends and family may notice that you are spending more time alone, or have suddenly changed who you hang out with, or what you do with your friends (like drug or alcohol use)
  • CHANGES IN HOW YOU ARE DOING AT WORK OR SCHOOL Teachers or bosses might get concerned about a sudden or gradual deterioration in the quality of your schoolwork or your work on the job. This can often be a result of difficulty concentrating or organizing your thoughts. Symptoms Symptoms of psychosis are different for different people, especially at the very beginning of the episode.
  • CHANGES IN HOW THINGS SOUND, LOOK, TASTE, SMELL, OR FEEL Changes can be subtle, like colors looking brighter, or food tasting different
  • Changes can be dramatic and scary, like hearing noises or voices, or having visions
  • DIFFICULTY CONCENTRATING OR HOLDING ONTO THOUGHTS One of the earliest symptoms can be trouble concentrating on what you hear or read, making school and work very difficult
  • It may become hard to hold onto your own thoughts, or complete your thoughts, and your mind might feel confused or jumbled
  • EXPERIENCING THINGS THAT OTHERS DON’T You may feel like your body or your mind seems different, or that the world around you is different in a confusing way
  • Sometimes other people, even familiar people, start to feel strange or different to you
  • NEW IDEAS, BELIEFS, OR WORRIES THAT YOU OR OTHERS FEEL ARE UNUSUAL FOR YOU You may start to believe things or worry about things that you are worried sound “crazy,” like that you are being followed or watched, or that you have special powers or gifts, or that you have a special relationship with God or supernatural beings

What does psychosis feel like?

Psychosis tends to come and go in “episodes” of more intense symptoms.

  • A recurrent episode is sometimes referred to as a “relapse”.
  • The length of an episode varies greatly from person to person, lasting anywhere from a few hours to a few days, weeks or months.
  • Some individuals may feel distress or depression as they try to make sense of, or understand psychotic experiences.

How common is it?

Psychosis is more common than many think.

It’s not uncommon to experience temporary symptoms of psychosis as a result of extreme stress, trauma, or even lack of sleep.

  • A first episode of psychosis is most likely to occur in teen and early adult years, during which rapid changes in the brain often coincide with stressful life transitions.
  • A first episode usually occurs slightly earlier for men than women.

Just because someone experiences psychosis does not mean that they automatically have, or will have a psychotic disorder. Many Americans may experience psychosis in a given year, but only about 3% of these experiences develop into a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. An estimated 9 million Americans are currently living with psychotic disorders.

What does psychosis mean to me?

This is a great question, but a hard one to answer.

  • For some people the first psychotic episode marks the beginning of a life learning process to develop healthy coping strategies.
  • For others, it may be a tough few months that they never experience again.

The good news is that evidence based early interventions for psychosis can help individuals get through and understand an episode of psychosis and help to better manage any future episodes so that psychosis doesn’t hold you back from living your life.

How PEACE can help

The PEACE program is designed to help people in the early stages of psychosis learn how to manage their symptoms and meet their life’s goals. PEACE provides multidisciplinary evidence based services to individuals aged 15 and older, with Medicaid or who are Medicaid eligible and who have been experiencing psychosis for the first time within the last 12 months. With the right tools and supports, individuals can learn to feel better, manage personal challenges, connect with peers, and move toward success in all areas of their lives, including work, school and relationships.


For more information, please visit Psychosis and Early Intervention:


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