Symptoms of Psychosis
People who suffer from psychosis may experience a range of symptoms including:
- Hearing voices that other people don’t hear
- Seeing things or people that others don’t see
- Maintaining a belief that others are reading their minds and controlling their thoughts
- Holding the belief that others are plotting to harm them
Understandably, these symptoms can cause the individual with psychosis to feel terribly afraid and agitated. The fear and confusion may be immobilizing, causing them to sit without moving or speaking for long stretches of time. It may be difficult to know what is going on with someone who has psychosis until they begin talk about what they are experiencing.
They may then disclose disordered thinking.
How can we tell whether our suspicious thoughts are justified?
How can we tell whether our worries are justified or not? Well, it’s not always easy. If you’re struggling to decide whether your suspicious thoughts are justified, give yourself the following self-check:
- Would others agree that my suspicious thoughts are realistic?
- What would my best friend say about what I am thinking?
- Have I checked out what I am thinking or worrying about with others?
- Could I possibly have have exaggerated the feeling of threat I am experiencing?
- Is there some solid, strong evidence for my feelings or suspicions?
- Are my worries based on events that could be interpreted more than one way, and possibly more favorably than I am interpreting them?
- Have I based my worries on subjective feelings rather than solid facts and evidence?
- How likely is it that I would be singled out for attention or focus over anyone else?
- What evidence is there that argues against my thoughts and suspicions?
- Could I be being over-sensitive? Even if I don’t think I’m being over-sensitive, could it help me to assume that anyway?
- When others reassure me that my suspicions are not correct, do I persist in believing them anyway?
By asking yourself these questions, you can improve your thinking and possibly lessen the time and energy spent on non-productive thinking.
Signs of possible mistakes in thinking
The more you feel like the following, the greater the chances are that you’re thinking may not be correct:
- You haven’t found anyone else who fully agrees with your worries and suspicions
- You cannot support your worries with solid,factual evidence
- The evidence available to you argues against your assumptions and suspicions
- The likelihood that you would be singled out for special attention is low
- Despite the fact that others reassure you that your fears are unfounded, you still believe them
- Feelings and events that could have more than one interpretation are the basis of your fears
Causes of paranoid and suspicious thoughts
According to research, there are five main factors involved in the development of suspicious thinking.
These five factors are very common. At least some of these has been experienced by all people.
The way they combine together is what is problematic. Two or more of these factors may combine to create suspicious thoughts:
- Stress and life changes. Relationship problems with others at home, work or school are factors as well as social isolation.
- Anxiety and depression are also factors. Anxiety tends to inflate feelings of threat and worry and this can affect our thinking.
- Subjective physical sensations (“feeling odd”). Odd or unusual feelings like feeling different, watchful, threatened can change our beliefs about a situation. Is important to note that feeling oddly can also stem from using substances like alcohol, marijuana or other street drugs.
- The way we explain things to ourselves. Having suspicious or paranoid thoughts is one way to try to organize and understand our world experiences.
- Stress, sadness, irritability, physical illness, and the lack of a healthy sleep pattern can combine to contribute to negative thinking. It may be more tempting than usual to want to blame other people at those times for deliberately targeting us or causing our problems.
It is important to realize and remember that most situations can have alternate explanations or meanings. When there are two or more possible explanations for a situation or event, try choosing to believe the explanation that is the least painful or troublesome. That can help interrupt the destructive cycle set up by negative thought patterns.
It is understandable that when we are stressed we are more vulnerable to jumping to conclusions or knee-jerk reactions. Considering alternative ways of looking at things and doing a “reality check” or postponing action until we’ve had a chance to sleep on it are just a few of the ways to help protect ourselves from the consequences of failing to think things through in a balanced fashion.
- View a PowerPoint on CBT for Bipolar Disorder from Stanford University (Opens in a new window)
- CBT for Psychosis & Trauma & Psychosis Handouts (Opens in a new window)
If you believe that you or someone you care about may be suffering from psychosis please contact Dr. Irwin Ford Rosenfarb at (858) 635-4782. I’d like to help.