Coping with psychosis isn’t easy. Because psychosis often begins during the teen years and young adulthood, many people lean on their families for support. If you or a family member is struggling, NAMI can help. NAMI and NAMI Affiliates provide support and information about programs and community resources for you and your family. The NAMI HelpLine, 800-950-NAMI (6264) or [email protected], has information about psychosis, treatment and finding support and resources.
If you find yourself in an emergency, NAMI has information about what to do in a crisis.
When you are living with a mental health condition, learning about managing your mental health and finding the support you need will help you reach your recovery goals. You can do many things to improve your ability to manage symptoms and cope with psychosis.
- Get help early. Reach out for help to locate the best treatment possible. If you’re a teenager or young adult, the most effective treatment for early or first-episode psychosis is Coordinated Specialty Care (CSC). These programs are available in a growing number of areas. CSC focuses on you and your unique needs using a team-based approach that works.
- Manage stress. Stress is a natural reaction for most people when they experience psychosis. The first episode of psychosis, when you’re learning about the initial evaluation, diagnosis and treatment choices, can be a stressful, overwhelming and confusing time. Managing or reducing stress can greatly improve your symptoms and well-being. Here are some tips for reducing stress:
- Learn about psychosis. Ask questions and learn about what you’re experiencing. The more you know about psychosis, the less worried or anxious you may be.
- Adjust your expectations. Know your limits, at home, work or school. Don’t take on more than you can handle and take time to yourself if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
- Find balance. Don’t push yourself too hard. If you’ve recently experienced an episode of psychosis, you may need to adjust your schedule or lifestyle. Working or going to school part-time keeps you engaged in your own life but allows time for you to focus on recovery and take time for yourself.
- Make time for fun. Make time for hobbies, recreation and regular exercise.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs. Substance abuse affects the benefits of medication and worsens symptoms. If you have a substance abuse problem, seek help.
- Maintain connections. Having friends and family involved in your treatment plan can go a long way toward recovery. People experiencing psychosis often have a difficult time in social situations, so surround yourself with people who understand. NAMI Peer-To-Peer and NAMI Connection support groups are great ways to meet caring, supportive people who are focused on recovery.
Helping a Family Member or Friend
Families and friends can play a major role in helping their loved ones manage and recover from psychosis. Family members may need to provide emotional support, arrange for treatment and find new ways to cope with the signs and symptoms of psychosis. Learning about early psychosis and psychosis will help you understand what your friend or family member is experiencing and trying to cope with. It is challenging. Here are some ways you can offer support:
- Coordinated Specialty Care for first-episode psychosis. Teens and young adults experiencing early psychosis benefit from early identification and treatment. The most effective treatment for early psychosis is Coordinated Specialty Care (CSC). CSC includes family involvement and gives families the information and skills to support a loved one’s treatment and recovery.
- Helping to manage stress. The stress can become overwhelming when a loved one is experiencing psychosis, but here are some things you can do to manage stress.
- Learn about psychosis. Ask questions and learn about what your loved one is experiencing. The more you know, the less worried or anxious you may be and the better prepared you’ll be to help.
- Be positive. Thinking and speaking positively whenever possible can help reduce stress and negativity in the entire family. Instead of thinking “I can’t do it,” switch to “It’s a challenge, but we can handle it.”
- Take care of yourself. Don’t overlook your own needs when caring for a loved one with psychosis. To be effective you must be physically and mentally healthy. Make time for exercise, a healthy diet, fun activities and fulfilling relationships.
- Connect with others. Faith communities and spiritual beliefs help many people cope with difficult situations. Prayer and other religious activities may greatly reduce stress and provide social support to reduce isolation.
- Respond calmly. To your loved one, the hallucinations seem real, so it doesn’t help to say they are imaginary. Calmly explain that you see things differently. Be respectful without tolerating dangerous or inappropriate behavior.
- Pay attention to triggers. You can help your family member or friend understand, and try to avoid, the situations that trigger symptoms, cause a relapse or disrupt normal activities.
- Help ensure medications are taken as prescribed. Many people question whether they still need the medication when they’re feeling better or they don’t like the side effects. Encourage your loved one to take medications regularly to prevent symptoms from returning or worsening. Encourage communication with the prescribing psychiatrist about concerns over side effects. Everyone is different, and it may take several trials before the best medication or combination of medications is found.
- Understanding lack of awareness (Anosognosia). Your family member or friend may be unable to see that he or she is experiencing psychosis. Rather than trying to convince them, show support by helping your loved one be safe, get therapy and take the prescribed medications.
- Help avoid drugs or alcohol. These substances are known to trigger psychosis. If your loved one develops a substance abuse disorder, getting help is essential.
No one wants to worry about the possibility of a crisis, but they do happen. If a situation escalates suddenly, you may need to call 911 or another emergency phone number. Be prepared with information to keep the situation calm and everyone safe. Preparing for a crisis can reduce its impact and shorten the time it takes for your loved one to get back on track.
NAMI offers information to learn more about caring for a family member, friend or yourself. NAMI also offers peer-led education and support programs in many communities. NAMI Family-To-Family helps the family and friends of people living with a mental health condition. NAMI Family Support Groups help people find support, encouragement and insight from the challenges and successes of others facing similar circumstances. Your local NAMI will have program information and local resources.