Can Anxiety Cause Psychosis? | The Link Between Mental Health & Wellness

Can Anxiety Cause Psychosis?
Anxiety vs Psychosis
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Can Anxiety Cause Psychosis?
No, anxiety itself does not directly cause psychosis. However, severe or prolonged anxiety can contribute to conditions or states of mind where someone might experience symptoms that are similar to psychosis.

Anxiety is a mental health condition characterized by feelings of worry, anxiety, or fear that are strong enough to interfere with one's daily activities. Examples of anxiety disorders include panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Psychosis is a serious mental disorder characterized by a disconnection from reality. People experiencing psychosis may have hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not there) or delusions (firmly held beliefs in things that are not true). Their thoughts and speech might be disorganized, making it hard to understand them.

Symptoms Of An Anxiety-Induced Psychosis
- Hallucinations
- Delusions
- Paranoia
- Mania or mixed episodes
- Disorganized speech and behavior

Treatment Of Anxiety-Induced Psychosis
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
- Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)
- Family-oriented therapy

Can anxiety cause psychosis?

Anxiety disorder and psychosis are both mental disorders that can interrupt a person's life. Both can cause distress, confusion, and trouble for their sufferers. People often wonder if anxiety can lead to the symptoms of psychosis or vice versa. This article will examine the relationship between anxiety and psychosis in order to understand better how they may be connected.

A woman suffering from anxiety in a post about can anxiety cause psychosis

What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of worry, fear, unease, or dread. It is an evolutionary adaptation that helps us identify and respond to danger. Anxiety can be short-term when it is an appropriate reaction to a stressful event or long-term in the case of childhood trauma.

When it becomes a chronic condition, having an anxiety attack affects daily functioning. Anxiety disorders include social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

What is psychosis?

Psychosis is characterized by altered thinking, behavior, and perception. People with psychotic disorders may experience delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech or behavior, and impaired cognitive functioning. The most common psychotic disorders are schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. People with psychosis often lack insight into their symptoms and may be unaware that their beliefs and perceptions are distorted.

Treatment is often necessary to help manage symptoms, reduce the risk of relapse, and promote recovery. In short, Psychosis is a symptom and not an illness. Psychosis can be triggered by extreme stress, trauma, or a mental or physical illness.

Psychotic Symptoms and Related Conditions in a post about

The relationship between anxiety and psychosis

Studies have shown that anxiety is closely linked to psychosis. [1] People with anxiety disorders and major depression are more likely to develop some serious mental illness, like psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and schizoaffective disorder. In fact, around 27% of patients with Anxiety and Depression show one or more psychotic symptoms. [1] And those who show psychotic symptoms tend to have a more severe Anxiety/ Depression condition.

Psychosis and anxiety can have a complex relationship. In some cases, psychosis may lead to depressive and anxiety disorders which can also be triggered by a mental illness. [3] This is especially true for young adults and people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, as episodes of psychotic symptoms can be very frightening and stressful. On the other hand, having a problem with mental health issues such as Anxiety or Depression can put someone at greater risk of developing a psychotic disorder.

People with Major Depressive Disorder may be more likely to experience hallucinations and delusions due to changes in brain chemistry.[2]

Symptoms of anxiety-induced psychosis

Other than anxiety-related symptoms, people who suffer from anxiety disorder may also have a depressed mood and show psychiatric symptoms such as;

In severe cases, people with anxiety may experience auditory or visual hallucinations, delusions of persecution/ grandeur, paranoia, or mania. This could be a sign that their anxiety has progressed to a psychotic disorder such as schizophrenia. People who suffer from extreme stress often struggle to control their thoughts and feelings, making it difficult to differentiate between reality and delusions.

If anxiety attacks are left untreated, anxiety-induced psychosis can lead to greater social isolation, major depressive disorders, and suicidal ideation.

An anxiety patient experiencing psychotic symptoms in a post about can anxiety cause psychosis

Treatment options

To manage the symptoms of anxiety-induced psychosis, psychiatrists generally prescribe medications like antidepressants or antipsychotics. Additionally, psychotherapy can be instrumental in supporting those living with this disorder. Examples include:


Psychosis is often seen as a severe condition in anxiety sufferers. Hence, it should be addressed before it becomes unmanageable. The right treatment plan should be tailored to the individual’s needs. Additionally, you can seek help from online therapy services and support groups or engage in self-care activities to help manage anxiety and reduce the risk of psychosis. With proper treatment and care, anxiety-induced psychosis can be managed, and you can lead a healthier and better life.


Which type of anxiety causes psychotic behavior?

Psychotic episodes are only seen in severe panic attacks.[4] However, once the patient enters a state of psychosis, it can reoccur 10 to 15 times per day. Further, psychotic symptoms can worsen the anxiety symptoms, leading to further distress and possible hospitalization.

How do I know if I have anxiety or psychosis?

The truth is, you can not easily distinguish between the two. Psychosis and anxiety share common symptoms, such as insomnia, restlessness, racing thoughts, or feeling overwhelmed. If you’re experiencing any of these problematic anxiety symptoms, it’s important to seek help from a professional who can assess your situation and provide the treatment you need.


  1. Evidence That Psychotic Symptoms Are Prevalent in Disorders of Anxiety and Depression
  2. Brain changes in depression - PMC
  3. Frontiers | Case report: From anxiety disorders to psychosis, a continuum in transitional age youth?
  4. Panic attacks with psychotic features - PubMed

⚠️ Disclaimer: The content of this article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. Consult a qualified health professional for any medical concerns.

Psychosis in Teens: Symptoms & Treatments

What Is Psychosis
How To Manage

Psychosis is a mental illness in which a person has delusions (false beliefs such as thinking people are talking about them or believing they can control the weather) and hallucinations (seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, or smelling something that is not actually there).

- False beliefs that are not based in reality
- Sensory experiences that are not real
- Disorganized thinking
- Paranoia
- Social withdrawal
- Mood swings
- Depression
- Anxiety
- Unusual behavior that is out of character or doesn't make sense

- Antipsychotic medication
- Psychotherapy
- Family therapy
- Support groups
- Hospitalization

- Learn as much as you can about psychosis
- Encourage your teen to seek professional help, and support them in their treatment
- Provide a stable and supportive home environment for your teen
- Help them find healthy ways to manage stress
- Connect with support groups

Mental health disorders are common in teens, with a prevalence rate of 31% among adolescents[1]. Psychosis alone has a prevalence rate of 5%-8% among teens and can cause significant distress, disruption, and disability[2]. This blog will discuss psychosis in teens, its symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment options.

What is Psychosis in Teens?

Psychosis is a mental illness in which a person has delusions (false beliefs such as thinking people are talking about them or believing they can control the weather) and hallucinations (seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, or smelling something that is not actually there).

Psychosis is often a symptom of schizophrenia, a psychotic disorder that can cause long-term disruption in a person's ability to think, act, behave, and relate to others [3]. However, not all adolescents who experience psychosis have schizophrenia—it can also be a symptom of bipolar disorder, major depression, dissociative states, or other psychiatric disorders[2].

Helpful tip

Psychosis alone has a prevalence rate of 5%-8% among teens and can cause significant distress, disruption, and disability[2].
A teen girl with a psychotic illness

Signs and Symptoms of Psychosis in Teens

According to NIH, psychosis symptoms in teens are as follows. [2]

Prodromal Symptoms (Early Symptoms that are often misdiagnosed with depression)

Active Psychotic Symptoms of Teens (Acute Psychotic Episode)

Non-Common Signs of Psychosis in Teens

These psychosis symptoms are usually not seen in teens.

Causes of Psychosis in Teens

A teen experiencing Hallucinations

Psychotic Disorders

The most common cause of psychosis is a mental disorder. [2] A few conditions that can cause psychosis are schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, mood disorders, schizophreniform disorder, and schizoaffective disorder. However, a person experiencing psychosis may have psychotic symptoms without having any other psychotic illness [4].

Genetic Risk Factors

If the parents or siblings of adolescents have a family history of childhood-onset schizophrenia, it is more likely that the adolescent will develop a psychotic disorder [2].

Stress and Trauma

Childhood trauma, environmental factors such as neglect, physical and emotional abuse can also act as a trigger for the onset of psychosis in adolescents. Stressful incidents, such as the death of a parent or other family member, can also increase the risk [2].

Did you know?

Teens with PTSD are more likely to experience psychosis, as trauma can significantly impact their mental health and perception of reality.

Drug Use

The use of certain illicit drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine, and LSD, increases adolescents' risk of developing psychotic symptoms [2].

Medical Illness

While not common in teens, certain medical conditions can also cause early psychosis often, such as brain tumors or cysts, stroke, HIV, and epilepsy[5]. Teens with these conditions are more likely to experience psychotic symptoms than those without them.

An example of a girl struggling to get her psychotic illness under control

The Brain's Landscape: Understanding Its Structure and Function

Before diving into the specifics of psychosis, it's crucial to have a basic understanding of the brain's key regions and their roles:

Neuroscience Behind Psychosis: What Happens During a Psychotic Episode?

During a psychotic episode, several changes occur in the brain:

A dealing with hallucination because of his psychotic illness

Interpreting the Changes: Why Do These Alterations Cause Symptoms?

The changes that occur in the brain during a psychotic episode can help explain the diverse symptoms of psychosis:

Understanding the neuroscience of psychosis provides critical insights into the complex interplay of brain regions and neurotransmitters in this condition. It also underscores the importance of continued research in this field, as a deeper understanding of these processes could pave the way for more effective treatments in the future. [11]

Diagnosis of Psychosis in Teens

The diagnosis should be made by a mental health professional. Your healthcare provider will perform a mental health screening to assess your teen's symptoms and mental state. They may make psychiatric diagnosis and also recommend a physical exam, lab tests, and imaging tests to rule out any medical conditions that could be causing psychosis symptoms[6].

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) requires the onset presence of certain conditions for more than six months for each psychotic illness[2]. For example, schizophrenia requires at least two of the following symptoms, such symptoms as delusions, hallucinations, grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior, disorganized speech, and negative symptoms (such as flat affect).

Mental health screening can help diagnose early signs of these mental health concerns, which can be used to provide effective treatment strategies.

A young woman experiencing untreated psychosis

Treatment for Psychosis in Teens

The parents and other family members can monitor the teens' behavior and provide support to them. They should also create a safe and stress-free environment for the patient. For example, the patient must not be responsible for family responsibilities such as babysitting the siblings or taking care of the household chores.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be an effective tool in altering dysfunctional behaviors. It helps the patient to understand their thought patterns and beliefs system in order to help them identify and change their faulty ways of thinking[2].

Helpful tip

Therapy can be a lifeline for teens with psychosis. It helps manage symptoms, provides coping strategies, and enhances their quality of life. Never underestimate the benefits of therapy!

Antipsychotics can be used efficiently to treat prodromal psychotic symptoms. Many typical and atypical antipsychotics can reduce the visual hallucinations and delusions associated with psychotic episodes and improve functioning. However, they may have some side effects, such as weight gain, extrapyramidal symptoms, and metabolic abnormalities[2].

Unraveling Misconceptions: The Truth About Psychosis

Psychosis, like many mental health disorders, is often misunderstood. Misconceptions about psychosis can create barriers to understanding, compassion, and appropriate treatment. Let's debunk some common myths and shine a light on the realities of this condition.

Common Misconceptions About Psychosis

A teen exhibiting early warning signs of psychosis

The Stigma of Mental Health Disorders

Stigma surrounding mental health conditions can have severe repercussions, particularly for adolescents. Teens already navigate a challenging phase of life, and the added burden of stigma can exacerbate their struggles.

The Prevalence of Psychosis and Its Impact

To fully grasp the significance of these misconceptions and stigmas, let's consider some statistics:

Adolescence, Brain Development, and Mental Health

Adolescence is often regarded as a tumultuous period, a storm before the calm of adulthood. It's a time of exploration, self-discovery, and growth, but it also carries its unique set of challenges. To truly understand these challenges and their impact on mental health, we must delve into the fascinating world of adolescent brain development.

The Enigma of Adolescence: A Time of Change and Challenge

The adolescent years are marked by significant physical, emotional, and social changes. Teens navigate the precarious path towards independence, grapple with identity issues, and experience the rollercoaster of puberty.

During this period, they face unique challenges:

Helpful tip: Caring for a mentally ill parent can be tough. Remember, it's okay to seek help. Support groups for teens can offer coping strategies and understanding.

The Teen Brain: A Work in Progress

The human brain undergoes significant development during adolescence. The brain's 'grey matter', responsible for processing information, peaks just before puberty and then starts to decrease, while the 'white matter', responsible for transmitting information, continues to increase.

Two key areas of the brain undergo significant changes:

Adolescence and Vulnerability to Mental Health Issues

The changes happening in the brain during adolescence can contribute to increased vulnerability to mental health issues.

The Historical Context and Current Trends of Teen Psychosis

In order to gain a broader understanding of psychosis in teens, it's essential to explore the evolution of its perception and treatment throughout history, as well as to examine current trends and statistics.

The Historical Backdrop of Psychosis in Adolescence

Understanding psychosis, particularly among adolescents, has been a journey spanning centuries.

Despite these advancements, the stigma surrounding psychosis and mental health disorders persisted, often leading to delayed diagnosis and treatment, particularly in adolescents.

Teen Psychosis Today: A Statistical Perspective

Understanding the prevalence and impact of teen psychosis is crucial in shaping effective prevention and intervention strategies. Here are some key statistics:

The Current Landscape and Future Trends

Today, the focus is on early detection and intervention, which have been shown to significantly improve outcomes. There is also increasing emphasis on personalized treatment plans that consider the unique needs of adolescents.

Research continues to explore the genetic and environmental factors contributing to psychosis in teens, and there is optimism that these advancements will lead to better prevention strategies and treatments.

Psychosis and Performance at School: An Intertwined Reality

Psychosis in adolescents can present significant challenges in a school environment. Understanding these challenges and finding effective ways to navigate them is crucial for educators and school counselors.

The Impact of Psychosis on Academic Performance

Psychosis can profoundly impact a teen's performance at school. The implications range from cognitive to social aspects.

  1. Cognitive Challenges: Teens experiencing psychosis may struggle with concentration, memory, and problem-solving skills. This can lead to difficulties in keeping up with classwork and maintaining academic performance.
  2. Social Difficulties: Psychotic symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations can cause significant social distress. Teens might withdraw from their peers or struggle to participate in group activities.
  3. Attendance Issues: Frequent absences can become a problem if a teen is dealing with acute psychotic episodes or if they avoid school due to anxiety or fear of stigma. [19]

Did you know? Teens with psychosis who have a secure attachment style often show greater resilience and improved treatment outcomes.

Supporting Students with Psychosis: A Guide for Teachers and School Counselors

Given these challenges, the role of teachers and school counselors becomes pivotal. Here are some tips on how they can support students with psychosis:

Family Dynamics and Teen Psychosis: Understanding the Interplay

A teen's psychosis doesn't just affect the individual, it can also dramatically impact the dynamics within their family. Understanding these effects and knowing how to navigate them is crucial for families on this journey.

Psychosis in Teens: Its Effect on Family Dynamics

  1. Increased Stress: Dealing with psychosis can increase stress levels in a family. Parents may be emotionally drained, siblings may feel neglected, and the teen themselves may feel guilty for the changes in the family dynamic.
  2. Changed Roles: Family roles may shift as the focus turns to caring for the teen. Parents may need to take on a more intensive caretaker role, while siblings may feel the need to 'step up' in other areas.
  3. Strained Relationships: The strain of dealing with a mental health crisis can put pressure on relationships within the family. This can result in increased arguments or feelings of resentment.

Navigating Family Dynamics: Tips for Families

Despite these challenges, there are several strategies families can employ to cope and provide support:

Personal Stories: The Struggles and Triumphs of People with Psychosis


Imogen, a 27-year-old London resident, began experiencing symptoms of psychosis during her early teenage years. Unaware of the terminology surrounding her condition, she found herself unable to express what was happening to her. Her first major breakdown at the age of 15 led to hospitalization, but the severity of her condition was initially dismissed as bad behavior. However, following a second breakdown at 16, a thorough assessment from a psychiatrist led to a diagnosis of a psychotic episode.

Imogen was eventually diagnosed with bipolar type 1 disorder and autism. She experiences psychotic episodes, depression, and mania, all symptoms associated with her bipolar disorder. Through a combination of anti-psychotic medication, therapy, social work assistance, and self-education, Imogen has learned to manage her conditions. Now a part-time student at Birkbeck University, she is committed to advocating for mental health awareness, driven by her own experiences with psychosis.

Read Imogen's Story.

Chris Crutchley

Chris Crutchley, a 37-year-old individual diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder during his college years, has chosen to share his story publicly for the first time. Despite fears of societal stigma and potential professional setbacks, Chris feels compelled to contribute to efforts to end the stigma around mental health. The recent birth of his first child, an event that seemed uncertain for Chris due to his mental health struggles, has further motivated him to share his story, hoping it can aid others who suffer from mental illness and foster understanding of the obstacles faced when seeking care.

Chris was a two-sport athlete on an academic scholarship in college, with no prior history of mental illness. In 2001, he experienced his First Episode Psychosis (FEP), characterized by a gradual decline into psychosis over several days. Despite his mental state fluctuating between moments of clarity and delusion, his family was quick to seek medical help, contributing significantly to his recovery. The average time for a US citizen to receive care after their first psychotic episode is 74 weeks, starkly contrasting with Chris's early intervention.

The years following were filled with challenges, including readjustments to daily routines, emotional struggles, medication side effects, and even hospitalization due to a lapse in medication. Chris has since learned to own his story, sharing his experiences with trusted individuals and educating himself about mental illness. He now cherishes the opportunity to be a father and aspires to help others who face similar struggles.

Read Chris Crutchley's Story.

Managing Psychosis in Daily Life

Caring for a kid with psychosis can be demanding and stressful. Therefore they need a lot of support from their family, friends, and community.

Early education on coping strategies and stress management can help a lot in managing their stress[7]. Further, caregivers can also opt for community mental health services such as family therapy and support groups.

You may also receive help from an online therapist that protects confidentiality to help cope with the stress.

Final Words

Prolonged periods of untreated psychosis can worsen the symptoms and interfere with one's daily activities. Therefore, early intervention is vital for faster recovery. With proper treatment, there is a 25% chance of recovering completely, and about 50% of patients will be able to live a normal life, although they suffer from continued episodes[8]. So, look for early warning signs of psychosis and ask for help from a mental health professional when needed.


Can a 15-year-old have psychosis?

Yes. Teens may experience all types of mental disorders regardless of their age. This includes psychosis, depression, anxiety, and more.

Can psychosis just go away?

In some cases, psychosis can go away without treatment. But, in most cases, treatment will be necessary as it usually takes a long time for someone to notice psychosis symptoms in individuals.


  1. Common mental disorders prevalence in adolescents
  2. Psychotic Disorders in Children and Adolescents
  3. Schizophrenia: An Overview
  4. Understanding Psychosis
  5. Psychosis
  6. Mental Health Screening
  7. Caring for Patients With Psychosis
  8. What is Psychosis
  9. Phoenix-Talent School District: Psychology – Brain Structure/Anatomy and Function
  10. Pubmed: Neurobiology of Schizophrenia
  11. John Wiley & Sons: Brain morphologic changes in early stages of psychosis
  12. The Recovery Village: 12 Common Myths About Psychosis
  13. Pubmed: Understanding the impact of stigma on people with mental illness
  14. Pubmed: Psychosis
  15. Texas State University: Adolescent Brain Development
  16. Encyclopedia: Mental Illness During The Middle Ages
  17. Research Gate: Mental Illness and Psychiatry: The 20th and Early 21st Centuries
  18. Pubmed: A Review of Childhood-Onset Schizophrenia
  19. The British Journal of Psychiatry: Psychosis and academic performance
  20. The National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors: Supporting Students Experiencing Early Psychosis
  21. Rethink: From psychosis to: Imogen's story
  22. Nami: From My First Episode To My First Child