'I remember the terrified look.' Exactly what it's like to experience a psychotic episode.

Warning: This post deals with mental health and might be triggering for some readers.

I recently suffered an acute psychotic episode and before it happened, I only associated psychosis with people who suffer from schizophrenia or the heavy drug users you see on TV wielding a knife and adamantly declaring to be Jesus.

I guess I didn’t realise how common it can be. In fact, according to Sane Australia, in any given 12-month period, just under one in every 200 adult Australians will experience a psychotic illness.

Sane Australia defines psychosis as “a mental disorder where a person loses the capacity to tell what’s real from what isn’t. They may believe or sense things that aren’t real and become confused or slow in their thinking. Psychosis often occurs as a part of other mental illnesses. It is treatable.”

For me, the psychosis didn’t set in until I was already in a very acute depressive state and hadn’t slept for several days. Suddenly I felt like I had figured out a massive deception, I adamantly believed that my parents had been paying my partner as a “carer” because I was so pathetic and no one could actually love me in real life. I was deranged.

Osher Günsberg on what it’s like to experience psychosis. Post continues after podcast. 

I was experiencing a delusion of paranoia. It was a grandiose delusion given my partner and I have been together for five and a half years and had got married the previous year. I confronted my partner and my dad and I still remember the terrified look in their eyes, which at the time, I thought was because I had finally figured out the truth.

When in reality it was one of their scariest moments seeing someone they love suffering such a delusional state and not being able to be convinced otherwise. I think that was when the reality set in for them on how sick I really was at the point in time.

The cause of psychosis isn’t always easy to identify, it is commonly linked to drug use or lack of sleep and the latter definitely applied in my situation. There are also illnesses that can lead to psychosis, principally brain diseases and brain tumours as well as some types of dementia.


My psychiatrist later informed me that she believed that the psychosis grew out of the depressive state I was in. I was questioning how worthless and pathetic I was and then my mind created a story that would cement that thinking for me and invalidated every joyful and love infused moment I’d had in the last five years and condensed it all to be a lie.

I believe I suffered a brief psychotic disorder, I felt like I was under extreme stress, my whole character was under attack, and I was lucky in that I recovered in a few weeks. I was eventually hospitalised and put on anti-psychotics and anti-depressants to push the recovery. The journey to be actually treated was a story in itself accordingly to my partner and dad. I was spiralling and it wasn’t until I was in the back of an ambulance demanding to be taken to prison that I hit rock bottom.

I must admit that I was relieved when I was discharged and eventually advised that I could come off the anti-psychotics, it reassured me that it was just a temporary episode. But I am still scared about relapse, every day. Even after discussing it with a psychologist. She is helping me to create a relapse prevention plan, so we can identify the signs early and put into place all the right steps.

To anyone out there that has suffered psychosis, or even just stock-standard depression, I just want you to know, that you are not alone. There is a whole group of us that have taken a bow, and I would be lying if I said that we come out of it the same person.

It really is scary to know that your mind can have such dark thoughts and play such sadistic tricks on you, but we are able to choose what thoughts we tune into. And I am trying more and more to choose to tune into the positive thoughts, even when the negative thoughts get so loud, I just have to take deep breaths and focus on the people I love and remind myself that I am thankful to be here and to be the person I am.

The author of this post is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons. The image used is a stock image. 

If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner. If you’re based in Australia, please contact Lifeline 13 11 14 for support or beyondblue 1300 22 4636.

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