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What Are the 3 Stages of Psychosis? Signs of Psychotic Break

3 stages of psychosis

Here are the 3 stages of psychosis, which include the prodromal stage, acute stage, and recovery.

Psychosis refers to a condition in which a person loses contact and fails to differentiate between reality and fantasy. It is characterized by considerable changes in a person’s perception, thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors.

Psychosis can affect any person and vary in symptoms. The good news is that it doesn’t come out of the blue, but instead, develops gradually over different stages, in which the duration of each may differ.

The 3 stages of psychosis include:

Stage 1: Prodromal stage

This is the initial stage that occurs before the actual psychosis symptom.

Symptoms may be vague and hardly noticeable. Before the actual psychotic symptoms, there is a gradual change in the person’s thoughts, perceptions, behaviors, and functioning. 

In this stage, the person may notice vague changes in one’s overall personality without a clear psychotic symptom.

Some of the common signs experienced during this phase include:

  • Problem with screening out confusing information and sensations
  • Poor concentration and interpreting ability
  • Unusual changes in perceptual experiences (visual experiences may become brighter or sounds louder)
  • Feeling overburdened 
  • Unable to track one’s thoughts and decipher what others are saying
  • Feeling disconnected
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Depressed mood
  • Irritability
  • Suspiciousness
  • Unexplained difficulty at/skipping school or work
  • Deterioration in functioning
  • Odd beliefs/magical thinking
  • Decreased motivation
  • Social withdrawal
  • The feeling of being controlled by some forces
  • Talking to one’s self
  • Easily overstimulated
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Doing things that make no sense or logic
  • Inability to cry or excessive crying
  • Inability to express joy
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Excessive bizarre writing that is difficult to comprehend
  • Staring without blinking or blinking continuously
  • Strange gestures or postures

This phase may last from several months to years or more.

The prodrome phase is undiagnosable until psychosis has developed. Noticing these symptoms doesn’t indicate that you have a prodromal phase of psychosis.

These changes could be misdiagnosed for psychosis initiation because they are common in adolescents. Thus, one must consult a mental health professional for accurate diagnosis.

Stage 2: Acute stage

In this stage, the actual psychotic symptoms occur.

Symptoms of psychosis such as hallucinations, delusions, or confused thinking emerge during this stage. Symptoms may disturb the person extremely. They may exhibit odd behaviors strange enough to evoke concern among their family members.

Hallucinations are characterized by seeing, hearing, or feeling things that do not match reality.

Some examples of hallucinations may include:

  • Hearing strange voices
  • Visualizing things that don’t exist
  • Experiencing funny taste in the mouth
  • Feeling sensations on the skin although nothing is touching their body
  • Smell odors

Delusions refer to false beliefs that a person may strongly hold onto even after deeming them false. For example, if a person has a belief that their food is poisoned, they will be certain that the food is poisoned even if someone has proved that the food is edible.

Some examples of delusions include:

  • The belief they are being stalked, followed, or monitored by secret agents
  • Believing that someone’s plotting against them
  • Convinced that someone is broadcasting their thoughts for others to hear them
  • A strong conviction that they are responsible for a negative event such as an earthquake or a plane crash
  • Convinced that they have special power and abilities and are on a special mission
  • Believing that they are being controlled by a force or individual
  • Convinced that certain sights or sounds are exclusively directed toward the young person or conveying a hidden message (the television announcer is personally criticizing them)
  • Believing that people are trying to kill them (they can be strangers or people you know)

Confused thinking refers to jumbled thoughts and not making sense, resulting in these symptoms:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty understanding and interpreting a conversation
  • Issues with remembering things or events
  • Difficulty making new decisions
  • Unable to decipher new information

Other common symptoms of psychosis may include:

  • Disorganized or illogical speech
  • Strange, possibly dangerous behaviors
  • Slowed or unusual movements
  • No interest in personal hygiene
  • Lack of interest in activities
  • Problems at school or work and with relationships
  • The cold, detached manner with the inability to express emotion
  • Mood swings or other mood symptoms, such as depression or mania

Stage 3: Recovery

This phase begins when the person seeks timely medical intervention.

  • If the treatment turns out to be effective, most people will completely recover from the symptoms of psychosis and never experience another episode.
  • During the initial phase, some may experience acute stage symptoms lingering for some time, but they recover and return to their normal lives.

It is vital to identify and treat psychosis at its initial stage to prevent them from being a threat to society. Delay in treatment may lead to incomplete recovery.

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