Ask the doctor: Psychosis in adolescents

People experiencing mania may believe that they have extraordinary abilities that other people do not have. Photo: iStock/ChayTee

Q: My son has completed his Plus Two examination, and there has been a noticeable change in his behaviour lately. At times, he laughs and talks to himself. The doctor has said that it might be the beginning of psychosis. Can children develop such diseases?
XYZ, Piravom

A: Diseases categorized as psychosis are severe mental disorders such as schizophrenia. Delusions and hallucinations are the primary symptoms of such diseases. Delusions involve holding strong but false beliefs that cannot be corrected however much others may try. For example, a person may firmly believe that his neighbour is conspiring against him or is his enemy, that he is trying to endanger him, or that other people will be able to understand what he thinks in his mind.

People experiencing mania may believe that they have extraordinary abilities that other people do not have. Hallucinations can affect vision, hearing, smell, touch, and taste. Individuals may hear non-existent sounds, see imaginary objects, sense non-existent smells, or feel an ant crawling all over their bodies.

Most often, individuals with psychosis talk to themselves and laugh in response to someone they believe is communicating with them. Apart from delusions and hallucinations, various behavioural problems, lifestyle changes, and physical issues like lack of sleep can be part of psychosis. Psychosis typically emerges in late adolescence, and it is rare in children under 10 years of age. Seeking the help of a psychiatrist early on is crucial for proper treatment, which may include long-term medication. Unlike earlier, various types of medicines are available now, and they should be taken as prescribed by the doctor. Additionally, psychological treatments like psychotherapy may also be necessary.
Dr. P. Krishnakumar
(Courtesy: Manorama)

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