When all of a person’s mental defenses break down, when he can no longer face the stress and strain of daily life, he has one way out. He can escape from reality and retreat to a private world of his own. He may come back from this make believe world now and then and return to our world but usually reality is too unpleasant. This loss of touch with reality identifies this class of mental illness as psychoses – the most severe of the forms.
The psychosis present a totally different problem from the neuroses. Usually the patient does not know he is ill. Because the person has lost touch with reality, it may be difficult to reach him. He cannot make his own adjustments, even with family help. For this reason, medical help is urgent.
It is tragic indeed that so many people have attached a stigma to psychosis, as though the illness were a mark of weakness of character or a cause for family disgrace. Far too often, psychotic patients have been denied medical help because of this attitude.
Fortunately, this attitude is changing today. When more people fully understand the nature of psychosis, they will regard them as they do other illness. It is highly important that a person who is developing a psychosis receive treatment as soon as possible. Early detection increases greatly the patient’s opportunity to return to a normal life.
Nature of Psychosis
Psychosis is not a single disease. The various forms differ both as to cause and characteristics. Psychosis is the kind of mental illness most people think of when they picture the mentally ill. Functional psychosis result from various experiences and environmental influences. The do not involve physical changes or damage to the nervous system. Generally, functional psychoses relate to one or more of the following causes:
• The behavior patterns, attitudes and general outlook on life, rooted in childhood experiences, family influence and environmental pressure, especially during the years when a philosophy for living is being developed.
• Stress resulting from day to day environmental problems also adds to the problem.
• Physical make up of the individual, including his body chemistry leads to psychosis. Doctors refer to this as neurochemical influences on the nervous system. Neither the nature or importance of this cause of mental illness is well understood medically today. More research is yet to be done.
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