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Family & Friends Play an Important Role

Friends and family play a foundational role on the path of recovery

Family and friends play a critical role in psychosis assessment, treatment and recovery. In addition to offering much needed reassurance, consistency, and unconditional love you can offer help with managing treatment goals and keeping the path to recovery clear.

What is psychosis?

The word “psychosis” pertains to a variety of symptoms that affect the mind. Characterized by noticeable changes in behaviors, perceptions, thoughts and beliefs, a young person with psychosis is sometimes unable to distinguish what is real and what is not.

What symptoms should I be on the lookout for?

Family members know their loved one better than others, so are of key importance in noticing when things seem “off” or unusual. These experiences vary from person to person. Symptoms may be frightening and seem very real to the person having them and may include the following:

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Hallucinations

Hearing, seeing, tasting, smelling, and/or feeling things that others do not.

Your loved one may tell you directly that they are experiencing these perceptions, or you may notice cues in their behavior such as: they may appear to be talking to themselves, looking somewhere and you don’t know why, or focusing on certain body parts.

 

Delusions

Persistent beliefs that are not shared by others.

They may think other people are watching them, feel very good at certain tasks, have a special connection to a famous person, or any number of other thoughts that seem different than usual and that you don’t share; you may also notice that your loved one is pulling away in social situations, seems uneasy with others, or makes comments indicating suspiciousness about others’ intentions.

 

Behavioral and Emotional Changes

You may notice changes in a loved one’s mood (sad/depressed, happy/hyper/energetic), sleep (sleeping more or less than usual, sleeping at different times than usual, like staying up during the night and sleeping during the day), self-care (not grooming/showering as often as usual), substance use (using substances more than usual), socialization (not engaging with friends and family as usual), speech (talking more/less than usual, faster/slower than usual, using words in unusual ways or making up new words), motivation (more trouble than usual getting-going), and emotional expression (showing strong/inappropriate emotions, or no emotions at all). Many of these behaviors can happen for other reasons than psychosis, so you may question or worry that you are “making too much” of them. You may also not be sure if these are just typical behaviors for a teen or young adult. You do not have to feel that you should know the difference, there are professionals available to help sort things out.

 

Changes in Thinking

They may seem to be having trouble thinking clearly, concentrating, or processing what’s going on around them. They may seem confused, jump from topic to topic, or lose track of what they are saying or what others are saying to them.

What causes psychosis?

We are still learning about how and why psychosis develops, but it is believed that psychosis has several different causes and can occur in a variety of mental and physical illnesses.

How is psychosis diagnosed?

A diagnosis identifies or classifies an illness, so that a person receives the best care. Psychosis is a symptom, and symptoms are components of an illness. Health care providers draw on information from multiple sources in order to determine the diagnosis that fits best.

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Psychosis can be caused by a variety of things and occur in a variety of health conditions. Someone who has their first experience of psychosis may be diagnosed with what is referred to by some doctors as a psychotic disorder. Diagnostic labels rely heavily on combined observed experiences and opinions. They are ways for mental health professionals to most easily communicate and categorize clusters of symptoms to best inform the most appropriate treatment. Especially for young people who are still developing, it is crucial to remember symptoms and experiences change over time, and so may a diagnosis.

No matter what diagnosis your loved one receives, it can be helpful to focus on their defined personal goals, how their symptoms may interfere with those goals, and how best to use time in treatment to empower your loved one and ease distress.

What is Coordinated Specialty Care?

It is important to seek help as soon as you are concerned. The care received at a First Episode Psychosis (FEP) Center is designed with each individual in mind and involves many types of trained, caring people who will collaborate with you and your loved one on a plan towards recovery.

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Coordinated Specialty Care: A Treatment Team

Coordinated Specialty Care, or CSC, is a general term used to describe a recovery-oriented treatment program. CSC utilizes a team of specialists who collaborate in the creation of a plan based on an individual’s needs and preferences. CSC uses a team-based approach with shared decision-making that focuses on working with individuals to reach their recovery goals. These programs are available in a growing number of areas.

Our programs typically offer a team of people who will help. Each program is a little different but will often include:

Psychotherapy Talk therapy to help build personal skills of resiliency, management, and coping.

Supported Employment & Education Assistance with continuing to engage in or adjust to school and work goals while receiving care.

Medication Management As necessary, finding the best medications at the lowest possible dose.

Peer Support Guidance from those currently on their own recovery paths.

Case Management Skills and support to organize the practical issues presented during treatment. This includes communication with other team members.

Family Support and Education Tools designed to keep family members engaged and informed.

Answers to Common Questions

If I ignore this will it go away?

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While it may feel easier to ignore concerning changes in your loved one (especially changes that are subtle) it is important to reach out right away when you think someone you know is in distress. Listen to your intuition and try and engage with that person early on to help them find their way to feeling better.

What if they don't want help?

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Suggesting a person should get help can be received with fear, hostility or denial of need. Encouraging someone to seek help is often accomplished over a series of conversations. It sometimes can help to reassure them that you will work together to find options of support that feel right for them.

 

Am I alone?

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While experiencing feelings of loneliness and isolation are normal, remember you are NOT alone.  There are many groups and organizations that connect others who have been or may be going through shared experiences. Our PA First Episode Psychosis Centers often share opportunities for family member support.

How do I stay positive?

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Being positive in the face of a challenge is not easy for any of us especially when we feel stressed, disappointed or afraid. It is important to remain consistent in your support, considerate in your judgments and positive with your words. It is through this consistency that trust is built and it is on that foundation of trust that help will be sought.

Will my friend or family member's life stop if they seek treatment?

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Getting help early on often means there is less disruption to a person’s life than if they wait to connect to care (or treatment). Their life won’t  be on hold while in treatment –the team at a PA First Episode Psychosis Center will encourage them to work towards personal goals and do things that make them feel fulfilled.

Did I do something wrong?

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It is easy to want to blame someone, even yourself. You did nothing wrong.

Will my loved one be able to lead a fulfilling life?

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Yes! With early care, help is available to create a personalized path to leading a full life. This path, often referred to as recovery, looks and means different things to different people.

Is this person dangerous?

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Having psychosis does not mean that a person is or will become violent or dangerous. If you are worried that your friend or family member may hurt themselves or someone else, it is important to seek urgent help.

What if I cannot get them to agree to get help?

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While it is important to seek help early, if someone is not a danger to themselves or others (for example, thinking of dying by suicide ) it is OK to have conversations to foster a person’s desire to connect to help.  People often respond better to care when they feel they are part of the process. Have information about ways to get help ready for when the person agrees to seek care.