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See our What is Psychosis? fact sheet.
Additional information is available at the Mood Disorders Society of Canada.
Many behaviours are within the range of normal responses to situations. Yet family members sense—even when symptoms are mild—that behaviour is “unusual”, that the person is “not the same”. This list of warning signs was developed by people whose relatives have schizophrenia or other serious mental illness.
The number and severity of these symptoms differ from person to person—although almost everyone mentions noticeable social withdrawal:
Anosognosia, as explained by the Treatment Advocacy Center in the US, “also called ‘lack of insight,’ is a symptom of severe mental illness experienced by some that impairs a person’s ability to understand and perceive his or her illness.”
Their 2016 background paper on anosognosia states that “It is not the same as denial of illness. Anosognosia is caused by physical damage to the brain, and is thus anatomical in origin; denial is psychological in origin.
Approximately 50% of individuals with schizophrenia and 40% of individuals with bipolar disorder are estimated to have co-occurring anosognosia. It is reported to be the most common reason why individuals with schizophrenia refuse to take medication; since they do not believe that there is anything wrong with them, why should they? Awareness of illness sometimes improves with treatment with antipsychotic medication, especially clozapine.”
A first episode of psychosis can be a confusing and traumatic experience for a young person. It also affects their family and peers. Since the onset of psychosis associated with schizophrenia most often occurs in the late teens or early twenties, it can adversely affect the person’s developing a sense of self-identity as well as their relationships, education
and career goals.
Preliminary evidence shows delayed treatment may cause the illness to become more biologically entrenched and less responsive to treatment. Early diagnosis and treatment can lead to significantly improved recovery and outcome.
By contrast, the longer the illness goes untreated, the longer it takes for remission of symptoms, the lesser the degree of
remission, and the greater the chance of early relapse.
There can be critical damage to a young person’s life when psychosis is ignored. It is important to recognize early warning signs and get proper medical help as soon as possible.
See our How Do I Get Help for my Loved One? page, for more information and contacts for getting your loved one assessed and provided with medical help.
You may also find the following resources helpful: