One of the most frightening situations a person can face is to understand that some of the things that you hear and see are not seen or heard by others. You might hear noises or voices or see shadows or ‘real’ people. Additionally, or alternatively, the way that you experience (and explain) yourself and the world around you might be very different to how others explain the world and themselves. People can begin to experience these disconnections with others at a very early age, sometimes as young as 10 or 11 years old. These experiences are what psychologists and psychiatrists often refer to as symptoms of “psychosis”.

Psychosis can most easily be defined as not sharing the general consensus of what is real and what is ‘imagined’. The extent of a reality not shared by others varies from person to person. Most of us will have experienced the feeling of disconnectedness with other people from time to time. It is when that disconnectedness is continuous that extreme distress can come about. It is when we realise that most of the people we meet do not see things in the same way that we do that we can be psychologically challenged to the point of exhaustion and breakdown.

The medical profession define events including sounds and images not shared by others as hallucinations. They quite categorically define them as not real, imagined or fantasised. Unexplained or unlikely experiences are defined as either auditory or visual hallucinations. Treatment for psychosis generally includes anti-psychotics. Public perception of people with psychosis is generally negative with little said about the many people with these diagnoses living peacefully and much said about them being a risk to the community. People with psychosis are in fact a greater risk to themselves than anyone else, their suicide and self-harming rates being far higher than the general population.

When the way we see things is challenged by others, it causes a disconnect between us and them. It is hard to accept that the way we see things is wrong and we will fight to have our voice heard and our views and opinions count. Where we get into situations where we feel totally out of step with others then we become anxious about them, maybe depressed about them and will eventually avoid those situations if we feel nothing is going to change. Where we feel that almost everyone disagrees with us and is ‘against us’ then we are likely to isolate ourselves from others full stop.

The experience of someone with a diagnosis of psychosis (or schizophrenia) is often invalidating (people reject how you see things and tell you how it is). This can include trying to explain to a doctor that you have pains in your head. What you say, even where it is a ‘real’ experience can still be challenged and invalidated. The pains are real but getting someone to accept that, and therefore get help for them, is a problem. Psychiatry historically has added to the stigma of psychosis with the term “schizophrenia”. This term is under challenge from individuals and institutions as having “little or no reliability (the extent to which experts can agree on who meets criteria for a diagnosis) or validity (the [term’s] ability to predict things like prognosis or treatment responsivity)”. See the International Society for Psychological and Social Approaches to Psychosis website for further information.

Erko Psychology has a keen interest in helping people who experience auditory, cognitive and visual ‘disconnects’ with others and are concerned or frightened by them. We offer a therapeutic space in which to discuss your issues fully, frankly and confidentially. Many people who experience those disconnects do not have a diagnosis of psychosis or schizophrenia. They have chosen to keep their experiences to themselves. Erko Psychology welcomes people with or without a diagnosis to contact us so that they can explore their experiences in a safe and validating environment.

For further information and to book an appointment, please contact us.