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Published on August 02, 2018

Psychosis: Uncovering a Condition Found in 1 in 15 College Students

Have you ever heard someone greet you by name and when you turned to respond there was no one there? Have you ever walked into a room and remember seeing someone or something, and when you got closer, you realized what you thought you saw was not there? Most likely everyone can remember a time when they heard or saw something that others could not hear or see. When this situation happens over and over and interferes with our daily life, we need to take action.

The loss of contact with reality is a real condition that affects the lives of many. It’s called psychosis. Psychosis happens when a person has disturbed thoughts, perceptions or hears things that make it difficult for them to understand what is real and what is not.

What Are the Symptoms and Signs of Psychosis?

Psychosis symptoms include delusions and hallucinations. Delusions are false beliefs. Hallucinations are when a person sees or hears things that others do not see or hear.

Additional symptoms include:

  • Jumbled speech
  • Behavior(s) that are inappropriate for the situation
    For example: a person believes they are seeing bugs come into their room, so they roll up a towel or rug under their door to prevent the bugs from coming in
  • Signs of depression or anxiety
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Social withdrawal and no longer doing things they once enjoyed
  • Major fatigue
  • Lack of motivation
  • Drop in grades or work performance
  • Trouble concentrating or making decisions
  • Paranoid ideas and uneasiness around others
  • Psychotic symptoms often begin in a person’s late teens to mid-twenties. However, symptoms may start at any time and can impact anyone.

What Are the Causes of Psychosis?

There is no one single cause for psychosis. It can be a symptom of a mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

Psychosis can be caused by:

  • Sleep deprivation
  • Some medical conditions
  • Certain prescription medications
  • Abuse of alcohol or drugs like marijuana

You may have also heard the term post-partum psychosis. This is not an official mental health diagnosis, however, it is the term that is used in approximately one out of 1,000 pregnancies to describe the symptoms that appear within the first two weeks after childbirth. Some experts indicate that post-partum psychosis is a symptom of bipolar disorder.

How Many People Experience Psychosis?

It is estimated that about three percent of the population in the United States will experience psychosis at some point in their lives typically between the ages of 18-25. It is estimated that one in 15 college age individuals may experience psychosis.

The Importance of Early Detection and Treatment

Early detection of psychosis, obtaining a diagnosis and starting treatment as early as possible is very important. Psychosis can be treated. Early treatment increases the chances of a better recovery.

Symptoms associated with psychosis can significantly impair an individual’s judgment which can lead to unhealthy decisions. These unhealthy decisions may result in dangers for themselves or others.

If you or someone you love is experiencing untreated psychosis symptoms, it is important to take these two steps:

1. Avoid leaving vulnerable individuals alone with the person
2. Seek help as soon as possible

Research supports a wide array of services which may include individual therapy or group therapy, family education and support, medications and supported employment/education.

If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of psychosis that are interfering with daily life, a screening could be beneficial.

Bryan Medical Center expanded its online screenings to include psychosis. While this free, confidential screening will not provide a diagnosis, it will tell you if the symptoms are concerning and need further review by a qualified healthcare professional.

dave miers

About Dr. Dave Miers

Dave Miers, PhD, is director of behavioral health services at Bryan Medical Center in Lincoln, Nebraska.

He helped establish the Nebraska State Suicide Prevention Coalition in 1999 and chaired/co-chaired this Coalition until 2017. He currently serves on the Board of Directors. Dr. Miers is a member of the leadership group for the Lincoln/Lancaster County Suicide Prevention Coalition. Dr. Miers has published research and co-authored a chapter in the Routledge International Handbook of Clinical Suicide Research focusing on family survivors of a child suicide. Dr. Miers helped develop the Lincoln Lancaster Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors (LOSS) team in Lincoln, Neb. He also helped develop other LOSS teams in Nebraska and is active with LOSS team development on a national level.


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