Psychosis is a condition that affects a person’s mind and causes changes to the way that they think, feel and behave. A person who experiences psychosis may be unable to distinguish between reality and their imagination.

People who are experiencing psychosis are sometimes referred to as psychotic. They may have:

  • hallucinations – where you see or hear things that are not there
  • delusions – where you believe things that are untrue

Psychosis is not a condition in itself, it is a symptom of other conditions. The most common cause of psychosis is a mental health condition, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder (manic depression).

Psychosis can also be triggered by physical conditions, such as Parkinson's disease, or as a result of drug or alcohol misuse.

The length of time that someone will experience a psychotic state of mind, known as a psychotic episode, will depend on the underlying causes. Drug- or alcohol-induced psychosis many only last for a few days. However, psychosis that results from schizophrenia or bipolar disorder may last indefinitely unless it is treated.

How common is psychosis?

Psychosis is more common than most people realise. It is estimated that one in every 200 people in the UK has experienced psychosis. Some people will only experience one psychotic episode, while others may experience several throughout their life.

Schizophrenia, which is one of the main causes of psychosis, will affect one person in every 100 in the population during their lifetime. 


Prompt treatment is recommended for someone who is experiencing psychosis. Studies suggest that the earlier psychosis is treated, the better the long-term results tend to be.

In the short-term, medicines are used to treat the symptoms of psychosis to make sure that the person is no longer a danger to themselves or to others. The long-term treatment will depend on the underlying causes.

If you have psychosis, it could affect your ability to drive. It is your legal obligation to inform the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) about a medical condition that could have an impact on your driving ability. Go to the Directgov website to find out how to tell the DVLA about a medical condition.


Information from NHS Choices

Mental Health Foundation
Mental Health Foundation
The Royal College Of Psychiatrists