Psychosis (young people)

Reflecting on and managing hallucinations, paranoia and delusions

Remembering psychotic experiences

Many of the young people we spoke to had had continual psychotic experiences since their early or late teens, while some, like Andrew Z and Lucy, had started having psychotic experiences only relatively recently. Three of the people we spoke to, Sameeha, Becky and Joseph had had a single short period of psychosis in their early twenties. 

Memories of psychotic experiences could be confusing or unclear. Andrew X said, “I struggle to remember things from my psychotic experiences… like my brain has blocked them out deliberately – which I’m cool with”. However, psychotic experiences could also feel so much like reality that some people had vivid memories of them. Joe’s first major hallucination comes back to him regularly as a recurring nightmare. Luke remembers “everything” about his delusions and at the time when he is experiencing them they don’t seem extraordinary. It is only afterwards that he wonders “Why did I think that”?

Memories of psychotic experiences can be upsetting and frightening (see hallucinations, paranoia and delusions). Sometimes people could act erratically and experience big mood swings. Becky described it as ‘like a demon comes out’ when she experienced psychosis. People also described feeling disinhibited; saying or doing things that they usually wouldn’t do or say. Afterwards it could be awkward remembering.
But some of the young people also described pleasurable memories such as heightened senses, spiritual-like feelings and false memories of “happiness”. A few people related positively to some of their psychotic experiences. For example, Luke mentioned the “high that people with bipolar experience”.
Managing the impact of hallucinations, delusions and paranoia

People who had experienced psychosis for many years described “ups and downs” with their psychosis and said the psychotic experience itself usually didn’t change over time. However, they had often found ways to manage the psychotic experiences, which could make it easier to cope. Medication or talking therapies had helped reduce the number of psychotic experiences for some people, or made them less upsetting, while others had found self-management techniques that helped them.
People had different ideas about how best to manage voices and hallucinations. Some found simple things worked best. Ruby finds that talking or singing aloud helps reduce her voices because “you can’t experience audible hallucination when you are talking. The brain can’t process both.” Hannah said, “If I see a vision, trying to walk away from it helps”. 

Green Lettuce says its best to try to ignore commanding voices, keep your mind as occupied as possible, and get a “proper routine” in the day and night. But Dominic found that if he ignored his voices, they would get louder and angrier and that what worked best was communicating with them on a daily basis.
Even when people found things that helped them to manage, what worked could change over time. Joe has found many different ways to understand and relate to his experiences of psychosis and said, “what works now maybe wouldn’t have worked in the past, and may not work in the future. Trying to make peace with my voices when I was still getting my grandfather's voice screaming at me, that wouldn't have gone well for me.” 

Others had not found anything that worked and could find themselves very quickly in a “crisis” situation.

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