Phases of Psychosis

A psychotic episode occurs in three phases, with the length of each varying from person to person.

Phase 1: Prodome

The early signs may be vague and hardly noticeable. There may be changes in the way some people describe their feelings, thoughts and perceptions, which may become more difficult over time. Each person’s experience will differ and not everyone will experience all of the following "common signs":

  • Reduced concentration
  • Decreased motivation
  • Depressed mood
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Anxiety
  • Social withdrawal
  • Suspiciousness
  • Deterioration in functioning
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Odd beliefs/magical thinking

Phase 2: Acute

The acute phase is when the symptoms of psychosis begin to emerge. It is also known as the "critical period." Clear psychotic symptoms are experienced, such as hallucinations, delusions or confused thinking. During this phase, the person experiencing psychosis can become extremely distressed by what is happening to them or behave in a manner that is so out of character that family members can become extremely concerned and may start to seek help. Before this stage the individual may have been experiencing a more gradual decline.

Phase 3: Recovery

With effective treatment most people will recover from their first episode of psychosis and may never have another episode. It is important to remember that psychosis is a treatable condition and if help is sought early, an individual may never suffer another episode. Initially, some of the symptoms that are apparent in the acute phase may linger in the recovery phase but with appropriate treatment most people successfully recover and return to their normal, everyday lives.