Acute Exacerbation of Psychosis

What is an Acute Exacerbation of Psychosis?

An acute exacerbation of psychosis is an acute episode or crisis of mental illness that has been associated with a severe or dramatic increase in psychosis symptom severity and usually requires immediate medical attention. Acute exacerbations of psychosis can present with paranoia, delusions, hallucinations, disorganised thinking, irritability, difficulty sleeping, and other symptoms.

The phenomenon of an acute exacerbation of psychosis is not limited to any one type of mental illness, and can occur in those diagnosed with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychotic or mental illnesses.

Causes of Acute Exacerbation of Psychosis

There is no one definitive cause that triggers an acute exacerbation of psychosis, as the condition can stem from a variety of different issues and experiences.

  • Psychosocial stressors, such as interpersonal problems, job issues, legal trouble, or financial stress.
  • Substance abuse or withdrawal, including alcohol and drug misuse.
  • Physical illnesses or changes to medication.
  • Traumatic life events, such as a death in the family or a betrayal by a loved one.
  • Social isolation.
  • Changes in daily routine, such as a long-term or short-term break in a person's regular environment.

Treatments for Acute Exacerbation of Psychosis

Treatment for an acute exacerbation of psychosis depends on the individual’s needs. Physical stabilization is usually the first step, followed by medications, psychosocial treatments, and when necessary hospitalization. Some specific treatments for acute exacerbations of psychosis include:

  • Antipsychotics to help address the psychotic symptoms.
  • Medication to treat any underlying medical conditions.
  • Individual and group psychotherapy to help the individual process and cope with their experiences and rebuild connections with other people.
  • Family therapy to help the family better understand and cope with their loved one’s condition.
  • Psychoeducation to help the individual have a greater understanding of their condition and its management.
  • Relaxation therapy or meditation that can help reduce stress.
  • Occupational therapy to aid in the individual’s recovery and improved functioning.

Receiving appropriate treatment and support for acute exacerbations of psychosis can enable individuals to gain control of their episodes, reduce their severity, and begin the process of recovery.