Psychosis symptoms and psychotic break

Psychosis is much more common than you think.  More than 100,000 young people in the U.S. experience psychosis each year.  While most people think of it as an illness, it's actually a symptom - a psychotic episode where a person breaks from reality.  The thoughts and perceptions are disrupted making it difficult to decide what's real and what's not, causing hallucinations, and delusions.  

Causes for psychosis

Oftentimes, psychosis is caused by underlying mental health conditions such as schizophrenia,  schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, and other mental health disorders.  Sometimes, it can be a result of a trauma, physical injury or illness, drug use, and even genetics.

Treatment for psychosis and psychotic disorders  

Through proper psychiatric treatment, those living with severe mental illness can develop social and work skills which will improve their lives and relationships. In spite of successful antipsychotic drug treatment, many patients with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder,  and other psychotic disorders have difficulty living their day-to-day lives, especially with motivation, relationships, and communication skills. Since some of these severe mental illnesses begin during the years critical to education and professional training, these patients lack social and work skills and experience. In these cases, the psychotherapy treatments help the most and many successful treatment approaches have been developed to assist people suffering from schizophrenia.

Individual psychotherapy: 

  • This involves regular sessions between the patient and a psychotherapist focused on past or current problems, thoughts, feelings or relationships. Through this contact with a trained professional, people with schizophrenia become able to understand more about the illness, to learn about themselves and to better handle the struggles of their daily lives. They become better able to differentiate between what is real and, by contrast, what is not and can acquire beneficial problem-solving skills.

Psychiatric diagnosis:  

  • Schizophrenia most typically first presents symptoms in the late teens or early adulthood. The diagnosis can be complicated at this age as this is a period in which many individuals experiment with or regularly use drugs. Marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine and other drugs can provoke psychosis. Careful psychiatric evaluation and neuropsychological evaluation are important in making an accurate diagnosis.

Medication treatment:

  • Antipsychotic drugs are typically used for the management of schizophrenia and other severe mental illnesses. Some patients, do not respond to medications, and a few may seem not to need them. Since it is difficult to predict which patients will fall into what groups, it is essential to have each individual treatment plan for long-term follow-up, so that the treatment can be adjusted and problems are addressed in a timely manner.

Family therapy and education: 

  • Research has consistently shown that people with schizophrenia and other severe mental illnesses who have involved families fare better than those who battle the condition alone. If possible, all family members should be involved in the long term treatment plan.


What our clients say...


I understand more about the commonalities of families struggling.

"...with a family member with mental illness, and I see more clearly how we all fit into the equation. I see the path for my own recovery and the importance of putting the focus on connection versus monitor or fixing.”

— A sister

It felt great to finally get all of my difficult feelings out in a safe environment.

“This experience showed me how to be in connection with my daughter and my family and the kinds of tools I need to stay connected. It felt great to finally get all my difficult feelings out in a safe environment.”

— A dad

It was hard for me to seek out therapy.“

"As a physician, it was very hard for me to seek out therapy during a very sick crisis in my mental health.  From the moment I arrived at the clinic, I felt safe and hopeful.  Dr. Schiller's ability to listen, process, and use a combination of scientific research and a pure gift for healing is unprecedented and amazing.  I have recommended him and the clinic to many people.”

— J.Y.

For parents, family members, and caretakers

1 in 25 Americans lives with a serious mental health condition, and mental health professionals have effective treatments for most of these conditions.  Yet, in any given year, only 60% of people with a mental illness get mental health care. As a result, family members and caregivers often play a large role in helping and supporting them.

  • You may be that family member trying to help a loved one who doesn't have access to care or doesn't want help.

  • You may be the caregiver who wants to learn how to support and encourage someone who has been hospitalized or experienced a similar mental health crisis.

The challenges of mental illness do not only affect an individual's family members but also friends, teachers, neighbors, coworkers and others in the community.  Whether you're providing a lot of assistance or very little, there is support for you and information that can help you better understand the issues that you might face. 


A quick test to see if your loved one is showing signs of mental illness.  

Your family member or loved one:

Has problems with logical thoughts and seems to have disordered thinking?
Has Difficulty with common functioning such as not being able to socialize as before and failing at school?
Lacks initiative or seems apathetic?
Seems to have changes sleeping patterns and habits
Seems to have changes in eating patterns and habits.
Acts nervous, odd, withdrawn, disconnected, and has severe mood swings.

What to do in a mental health crisis  

If you are experiencing a crisis, it's important to know what you need. To get ahead of the event, prepare a plan and place it in various places where it will be easily accessible.  It should include:

  • List of contact numbers for healthcare providers including therapists and psychiatrist

  • Local family members or friends who will be helpful in the event of a crisis

  • Local crisis line number

  • Address of walk-in crisis center or emergency rooms

  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

  • Your address and phone number(s)

  • Your (or loved one’s) diagnosis and medication

  • Previous psychosis or suicide attempts

  • History of drug use

  • Triggers

  • Things that have helped in the past

  • Mobile Crisis Unit phone number in the area (if there is one)

  • Determine if police officers in the community have Crisis Intervention Training (CIT)

  • Psychiatric Advance Directive (PAD), a legal document that allows a second party to act on your (or loved one's) behalf if acutely ill and unable to make decisions about treatment

  • A conservatorship (if necessary)