What is psychosis? 

Psychosis is a disorder which distorts a person’s normal thoughts, senses and feelings. It is characterised by unusual beliefs and perceptions (often hearing voices) and it can be a confusing time for people who experience it.

Psychosis may be a disorder which is brought to the attention of mental health processionals, or it may be lived with by people in their communities, never coming to the attention of health services. At Re-centre, we believe it is better to seek help or advice early.

What causes psychosis?

Psychosis is considered to have a range of origins. Medical research shows that biological, psychological and social factors can have a part to play.

For example, and not limited to

  • Biological factors – Neuroscience evidence of genetic vulnerability to stress, resilience and temperament, injury and chronic illness, substance use, environmental toxicities
  • Psychological factors – attachment and upbringing experiences, life stresses, trauma, losses
  • Social factors – learning / social / employment needs, personal devaluation and bullying.

A combination of these factors may contribute to the onset of psychosis. A recurrence of psychotic episodes with impaired perception, thinking, and emotional changes may become schizophrenia.

What are the signs and symptoms of psychosis?

A person with psychosis may experience:

  • Their perceptions of the world around them as changed. Memories and unusual ideas may preoccupy their thoughts, often as audible voices of people or unusual sounds. Various stimuli may be seen visually, smelt or sensed physically on the skin, with intensely real, vivid qualities. These are known as hallucinations.
  • They have a changed understanding of life and the environment, and unusual, improbable or bizarre beliefs. People may express mystical insights or magical abilities, or feelings of threat and persecution. This disturbance of belief is known as experiencing delusions.
  • Confused thinking and memory, and disturbed attention and concentration.
  • Mistrust of people, misunderstanding and withdrawal from normal relationships.
  • Distress and emotional confusion.
  • Physical fatigue, reduced motivation and disturbance of the normal routines of sleep.
  • Poor self-care, eating and hygiene.
  • An inability to recognise these changes in their life, or consider them as possibly being unwell.

External resources
The New Zealand Mental Health Foundation website has up-to-date information and advice about psychosis, and other psychological problems. You can read more about schizophrenia, a type of psychosis, here.

How we can help

Our specialists are here to help. We will usually refer you to one of our psychiatrists initially, they will then engage with the person experiencing psychosis by first recognising their unusual experiences are very real. A relationship of trust and partnership is then established, to allow discussion, clarification and consideration of the various options of treatment.

Family and important support people are included to understand and support care options.

Treatment with Re-centre can look like:

  • Regular psychiatric care, education and follow up with informed medication trials and monitoring
  • Physical assessment and lifestyle planning
  • Individual cognitive behavioural therapy courses
  • Psycho-education support for family and carers.

How do I help my loved one who experiences psychosis? 


  • Be patient and calm
  • Focus on the emotion of feeling anxious or scared, rather than the content of their fearful beliefs
  • Support your loved one to make good choices
  • Reassure them this difficult experience will pass, in time  
  • Seek guidance and information from professionals
  • Support the person to stop using substances if this has contributed to the problem.


Do not

  • Argue the beliefs or perceptions aren’t real (they are felt as very real)
  • Overwhelm them with unnecessary distractions, or people or any stimulation when they’re overwhelmed
  • Do not leave them alone if you are worried about their impulsiveness, intentions, or vulnerability.

Discover better mind health with Re-centre