About Psychosis

“Psychosis” is an umbrella term for a range of changes or alterations in the way people think, perceive, sense, behave and experience things.

Nowadays, psychosis is understood to exist on a continuum, with many members of the general public experiencing brief, transient or non-distressing “psychotic like experiences”—for instance hearing the voice of a close family member when they’re not around, or feeling unusually suspicious about something (Baumeister et al., 2017; Linscott & Van Os, 2013; Van os et al., 2016)

When these experiences cross-over into causing distress or negatively impacting someone’s ability to ‘function’, they may be diagnosed as psychotic disorders.  In addition to ‘primary’ psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia, psychotic symptoms can accompany depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD, borderline personality disorder and other conditions (Quattrone et al 2019).

Psychotic disorders affect more people then you think.

Approximately 7%* of people in any year will experience brief or transitory symptoms of psychosis. In Australia, psychotic disorders have a prevalence of about 0.5* (about 100,000 people).

Like many health-related experiences, psychosis can be influenced by many inter-related factors across biological, psychological, social, lifestyle and environmental domains.

These can include age, sex, family history, socioeconomic disadvantage (including employment and income), stress, adversity and trauma, migration or refugee status, exposure to certain compounds (including some medications or illicit substances).

What is a first episode of psychosis?

An episode of psychosis is a period lasting at least a week in which someone experiences clearly distressing or severe symptoms, and these symptoms negatively impact day to day life. 

Learn more *

What does early psychosis feel like?

It’s important to keep in mind that psychosis can manifest very differently in different people. 

What are the symptoms of psychosis?

Symptoms of psychosis can include alterations of thinking, beliefs, feelings and emotions, motivation and perception. 

How should I approach someone who maybe experiencing psychosis?

For many different reasons, a person experiencing early psychosis may or may not reach out for help. 

How should I talk to the person about what they are experiencing?

It’s always best to begin by asking broad, open-ended questions.  Avoid in any way “labelling”or judging what the individual may describe.

How can I be supportive and understanding?

Ask the person if, and how, they would like you to support them. Reassure them that you are there to help, not to judge them.

*Source: Mental Health First Aid Australia. Psychosis: first aid guidelines (revised 2019). Melbourne: Mental Health First Aid Australia; 2019.Enquiries should be sent to: Mental Health First Aid Australia via email: mhfa@mhfa.com.au


Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder (previously called ‘manic depression’) is a mental health disorder that causes our moods to fluctuate for days, weeks and sometimes months.

Signs & Symptoms

There are some very specific signs and symptoms for different episodes of people with bipolar disorder. Some symptoms overlap across episodes but generally, symptoms are often very different depending on the type of episode. Not all symptoms and signs will be present for all people.


  • Feeling extremely high in mood
  • Not sleeping or reduced need for sleep
  • Increased creativity and activity
  • Agitation, irritability and/or aggression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Forgetting to eat or losing track of times
  • Experiencing delusions and/or hallucinations


  • Low self-esteem
  • Self-neglect
  • Increased anxiety
  • Insomnia. Change in sleeping habits, sleeps more
  • Change in appetite or weight. Refusal to eat, losing a lot of weight
  • Lack of control over emotions
  • Lost interest activities that use to bring happiness
  • Lowered concentration and memory
  • Lowered energy
  • Increased drug and alcohol use

The sooner the person seeks help from a mental health professional, the sooner they can manage their symptoms.