Can Anxiety Lead to Psychosis?

Psychosis is defined as an episode during which a person loses touch with reality. The symptoms of psychosis include delusions (false beliefs) and hallucinations (false auditory, visual, tactile, or olfactory perceptions). Psychosis is sometimes mistaken for a mental illness, but it is actually a symptom that can be triggered by chronic substance abuse, some medical conditions, and certain mental illnesses. Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are two mental illnesses associated with psychosis, but severe anxiety can trigger it as well. 

Anxiety and Psychosis

Some people who suffer from severe anxiety and have panic attacks or anxiety attacks as a result experience symptoms of psychosis. But these psychotic episodes differ from those triggered by psychotic disorders in a few key ways: 

  • Anxiety-induced psychosis is typically triggered by an anxiety or panic attack, and lasts only as long as the attack itself. Psychosis triggered by psychotic disorders tends to come out of nowhere and last for longer periods o

  • People experiencing episodes of anxiety-induced psychosis often maintain an awareness of their anxiety as it intensifies, as well as some understanding of what is happening even as they lose control and disconnect from reality. People with psychotic disorders usually are not aware of their disconnection from reality. 

  • Anxiety-induced psychotic episodes usually end once the anxiety has diminished. Episodes triggered by psychotic disorders often intensify with time. 

  • Anxiety-induced psychosis can be treated by addressing the anxiety. Psychosis from psychotic disorders must be treated by addressing the psychosis. 

Treatment for Anxiety-Induced Psychosis

Anxiety-induced psychosis will not get better without treating the anxiety disorder. Many people with anxiety disorders become fearful that they will lose control in a public place or that they will humiliate or embarrass themselves at work. And when they experience a psychotic episode as a result of their anxiety, it tends to intensify their fears, leading to a greater likelihood of a panic attack or anxiety attack and another potential episode of psychosis. Treating the anxiety disorder can stop the cycle, provide great relief, and significantly reduce the risk of a repeated psychotic episode. 

At Alvarado Parkway Institute, our inpatient anxiety treatment program has helped countless people manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.  Each patient receives a comprehensive assessment to help us get a complete picture of their mental health and the nature of their anxiety. Our team then creates a customized treatment plan tailored to their individual needs. While each person’s treatment plan will differ from the next, anxiety treatment typically involves some combination of the following: 

  • Medication - to help balance mood-regulating chemicals in the body. These may include anti-anxiety medications or anti-depressants.

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) - helps patients identify negative thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors that lead to anxiety and to replace them with healthy, positive ones.

  • Relaxation techniques and self-soothing strategies - help patients to minimize the frequency or severity of panic attacks. 

Inpatient treatment for anxiety-induced psychosis allows patients to stabilize and recover from their psychotic episodes in a safe and supportive environment. Once stabilized, patients participate in the diverse therapies that make up their individualized treatment plan. At Alvarado Parkway, our goal is optimal mental health, maximum independence, and the highest possible quality of life for every patient who comes through our doors. 

If you or someone you love is suffering from an anxiety disorder, please call our 24-hour crisis line at 619-667-6125 and get your recovery started today.