Psychosis (and hearing voices)

What is Psychosis?

Young people may worry that they are ‘going mad’ when they are feeling stressed, confused or very upset. In fact, worries like this are rarely a sign of mental illness or psychosis. Psychosis is when your thoughts are so disturbed (and confused) that you lose touch with what is real and what is not.

Unusual experiences called ‘hallucinations’, such as seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting or feeling something that is not really there, can also be a symptom of psychosis. Hallucinations are very real to the person having them and this can be frightening and can get in the way of everyday activities like concentrating on lessons and homework at school or even socialising with friends.

Sometimes people with psychosis can struggle to recognise that they have a problem or it can be confusing to understand what is happening. This can make it hard to know what to believe and trust other people who may be worried about them.

Psychosis affects people of all ages, but is rare before you reach the older teenage years. Although psychosis is rare, many people may hear voices that other people cannot hear or experience other hallucinations. Hearing voices or having other hallucinations does not mean that a person is definitely experiencing psychosis.

Watch this video from LondonHVN which gives young people the opportunity to talk about their experiences of psychosis: 


What might help

  1. If you are hearing voices or experiencing other types of hallucinations which you are finding confusing or worrying, it is important to let someone know and get help, support and advice. Talk to someone you trust such as a parent, carer, teacher or your GP.
  2. If needed, there are specialist teams that can offer assessment and treatment for people with symptoms of psychosis. See your GP for further advice on this. 
  3. Alcohol and drugs can make symptoms such as hallucinations or not being sure what is real or not real, worse. Try to avoid drinking alcohol excessively or taking illegal drugs.
  4. Lack of sleep or disrupted sleep, not eating or drinking properly or high levels of stress can also make hallucinations worse. It is important for physical and mental wellbeing to look after yourself.
  5. Try to have a balanced daily routine, have a good night time routine and eat and drink regularly. Relaxing is also important so make sure you have time to chill out during stressful times such as revising for exams.

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