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What I Need From a Loved One During a Psychotic Episode

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For those of you that are reading this, whether you live with a psychotic disorder (such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or schizoaffective disorder) or you’re a loved one of someone who does, there are many ways to handle a psychotic episode. Not many people know exactly what to do when a loved one is experiencing psychosis. The first thing you need to know is what psychosis is.

Psychosis is a symptom in which the person experiencing the episode has trouble telling what is real and what is not. They can experience hallucinations (auditory and/or visual experiences involving the apparent perception of something not present) and delusions (false beliefs). To them, what they are seeing and/or hearing can appear very real. Like it’s actually happening. They can start to feel paranoid, or depressed and lose interest or motivation for doing basic tasks (such as personal care/hygiene). Their thoughts and/or speech can become rapid or disorganized. They can even start to get anxiety or develop sleep problems.

During what is called a “psychotic episode,” a person is often in a fragile state. As a person who experiences psychosis, it’s very hard for me to get out of an episode. I become very agitated and paranoid. I start to get delusions like “the water has poison in it,” or I start to hear what I refer to as “the demon” talking to me. Every person’s psychotic episode is different. In my experience, no one person experiences the same hallucination or delusion.

For me, my auditory hallucinations and delusions are the worst. I hear “the demon,” which I believe is very powerful, locked inside my soul. That is a delusion. It is not actually locked in my soul; I’m not that special to have that happen to me. But as a person with schizoaffective disorder, which includes symptoms of both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, at times I have symptoms of superiority and believing I am superior and very unique. I believe I have powers that no other person has. I once had a delusion that I could read minds/people or predict the future, even though I really couldn’t.

When I’m in an episode, I don’t want validation. I just want someone to listen. Listen to what I have to say/what I’m experiencing. I want my loved one to give me their full, undivided attention. Though it may seem funny or entertaining, going along with my delusion or hallucination is the worst thing you could possibly do. What I want is a gentle smack back into reality. I want to know what I’m seeing or hearing is not real. That my delusion is not true. That I’m not as superior as I think I am. So please, kindly bring me back into reality by nicely stating that it’s not real.

Psychotic episodes are not fun and not something to ignore. If you or someone you know is experiencing an episode, do your best to be there for them. Do not ignore them or make them think it is real. You can be doing much more harm than good. Just be a good listener and support them. Make them feel safe and loved.

Image via Thinkstock.

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Originally published: January 6, 2017
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