What Can Trigger a Psychotic Episode?

June 10, 2024

Psychotic episodes can be overwhelming and frightening. Understanding what can trigger a psychotic episode is important for managing and preventing these episodes. Triggers can vary from person to person and may include stress, substance use, and underlying mental health conditions. We will explore the common triggers and help you recognize and address them effectively. You can better support yourself or a loved one by gaining insight into these factors. Learn more about the importance of identifying and managing triggers to maintain mental well-being.

What is a Psychotic Episode?

A psychotic episode is a mental health condition where a person loses touch with reality. These episodes can be a part of several psychiatric conditions. Most notably, they are associated with schizophrenia, but they can also occur in bipolar disorder during manic or depressive phases and in severe depression​. According to studies, between 15 and 100 people out of 100,000 experience psychosis annually. What does a psychotic episode look like? This disconnection with reality is characterized by a range of symptoms including:

  • Hallucinations: Seeing, hearing, or feeling things that aren’t there.
  • Delusions: Strong beliefs that are not based on reality.
  • Disorganized thinking: Incoherent speech and difficulty maintaining a logical conversation.
an angry man screaming not able to understand what can trigger a psychotic episode
Understanding what can trigger a psychotic episode is important for managing and preventing these episodes

What Can Trigger a Psychotic Episode – 4 Main Types of Triggers

A psychotic episode can be triggered by various factors. Psychological conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and severe depression are common causes. Medical conditions, substance misuse, and certain medications can also lead to psychosis. Additionally, severe stress, anxiety, and changes in brain chemistry may contribute to the onset of a psychotic episode. Understanding these triggers can help in managing and preventing psychotic episodes.

Biological Triggers

Biological triggers of psychosis, particularly in relation to conditions like schizophrenia, involve a complex interplay of genetic factors, brain chemistry, and medical conditions. Genetic predispositions play a significant role, where specific gene variants increase the risk of schizophrenia. In these cases, schizophrenia treatment in Atlanta is definitely a good way to deal with this issue. A major factor in the onset of psychotic episodes is also alterations in brain chemistry, particularly with regard to the neurotransmitter dopamine. The common symptoms of psychosis, hallucinations and delusions, are frequently associated with high dopamine activity. Similar to how diseases like tumors or epilepsy can disrupt normal brain activity, they can also cause psychotic symptoms.

Psychological Triggers

Psychotic triggers—severe stress and trauma being at the top of the list—are important factors in the beginning of psychotic episodes. A person’s psychological balance might be significantly affected by acute stress or a traumatic incident that causes psychotic symptoms like delusions or hallucinations. Substance abuse may also accelerate the onset of psychotic symptoms, especially when it comes to stimulants like cocaine or amphetamines, as well as drugs like cannabis. The influence of these drugs on brain chemistry, particularly on neurotransmitters such as dopamine, emphasizes the connection between drug abuse and psychosis. The good news is that there are a lot of treatment programs that address these issues. For instance, PHP mental health in Atlanta is a program for partial hospitalization created to assist you in determining the best course for long-term recovery and stability.

a syringe and drugs on the table
Substance abuse may also accelerate the onset of psychotic symptoms, especially when it comes to stimulants like cocaine or amphetamines

Environmental Triggers

Environmental factors such as sleep deprivation, high-stress environments, and social isolation significantly contribute to triggering psychotic episodes. Lack of adequate sleep disrupts brain function, impairing cognitive abilities and emotional regulation, which can lead to symptoms of psychosis. Prolonged sleep deprivation is particularly dangerous, heightening the risk of developing severe mental health issues. Additionally, living or working in high-stress conditions can worsen or trigger symptoms in vulnerable individuals. Similarly, social isolation, marked by prolonged loneliness and lack of social interactions, can severely impact mental health. It weakens social support, which is crucial for emotional resilience, increasing the vulnerability to various mental health disorders, including psychosis.

Medication and Treatment-Related Triggers

Treatment-related factors and medication are important psychosis causes. Medication violation can interfere with therapy and worsen or provoke psychotic symptoms again. In addition, several antipsychotics, antidepressants, and treatments for non-psychiatric illnesses, including Parkinson’s disease, can cause psychosis as a side effect. Moreover, psychotic episodes can be triggered by suddenly quitting or altering the amount of drugs, particularly those that impact neurotransmitter systems. To reduce the possibility of inciting psychosis, it is important to handle medication adjustments under medical supervision.

Early Warning Signs of a Psychotic Episode

Recognizing the early warning signs of a psychotic episode can be crucial for timely intervention and management. These signs often manifest in behavioral, cognitive, and sensory changes, signaling the need for professional attention. Utilizing the benefits of mental health services in Georgia might help you address them. Here’s a brief overview of what to watch for:

  • Behavioral Changes: Notable shifts in behavior and mood, such as sudden agitation, withdrawal from social interactions, or unexplained hostility.
  • Cognitive Symptoms: Difficulty concentrating or thinking clearly, which might include losing track of conversations or struggling with daily tasks.
  • Sensory Experiences: An increased sensitivity to sounds, lights, or other stimuli that previously would not have been bothersome.
a man trying to concentrate
Difficulty concentrating or thinking clearly is one of the early symptoms of psychotic episodes

What Treatment Programs Are Best

There are various mental health treatment programs to take into consideration. A comprehensive treatment approach often brings the best outcomes when addressing complex psychological conditions. Holistic methods that combine various treatments ensure that care is tailored to individual needs. For instance, antipsychotic medications can be crucial in managing symptoms by affecting neurotransmitter activity to reduce episodes of severe symptoms. Alongside medication, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) proves beneficial by helping individuals challenge and change harmful thought patterns, thereby improving emotional regulation and reducing distress. Supportive psychotherapy complements these treatments by offering emotional backing and practical coping strategies, improving overall resilience.

Besides the Partial Hospitalization Program, Time Wellness Georgia offers several other comprehensive treatment programs:

  • Intensive Outpatient Program
  • Outpatient Program
  • Adolescent Evening IOP

Understanding What Can Trigger a Psychotic Episode: Key to Preventing and Managing the Triggers

Understanding what can trigger a psychotic episode is crucial for effective management and prevention. Key triggers often include stress, substance abuse, lack of sleep, or changes in medication. Recognizing these early signs and seeking timely intervention can significantly reduce the impact of such episodes. It is vital for people and their caregivers to be cautious and proactive in identifying potential triggers. Additionally, exploring comprehensive treatment options in Time Wellness Georgia that include medication, therapy, and community support can provide a well-rounded approach to managing symptoms. By staying informed and prepared, those affected can lead more stable and productive lives.