Dealing with psychotic episodes

A psychotic episode is frightening. For loved ones, for caretakers and, especially, for the person experiencing the episode. People diagnosed with schizophrenia can at times experience psychotic episodes during which they become unable to distinguish between reality and hallucinations. It’s important for loved ones and caretakers to take note of the symptoms and support those with schizophrenia.

A psychotic episode doesn’t happen at once but is a gradual process. The most common symptoms include bizarre behaviour, mood swings and outbursts, and the individual might withdraw from friends and family. When these symptoms are present, seek professional medical help.

In responding to these episodes, it is important to keep the following in mind:

  • Don’t isolate the person or tell them what they believe to be real isn’t;
  • Listen and sympathise;
  • Minimise stress in their environment;
  • Be supportive and use encouraging language;
  • Avoid judgement or criticism;
  • Do not make light of their issues;
  • Limit overwhelming situations, such as noisy places or too many people; and
  • Don’t ask invasive questions.

In the most severe cases, when you think the person could be a danger to themselves or others, call emergency services. Be sure to inform the medical team of the individual’s mental state. It will assist them in being extra vigilant.

Most importantly, remember that schizophrenia is treatable through medication, lifestyle changes and behaviour. Be sure to speak to a qualified medical practitioner regarding treatment and dealing with psychotic episodes.

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