Treatment for psychosis involves providing a comprehensive treatment package suited to the needs of each individual. Successful recovery from an episode of psychosis usually involves treatment, at least for a period of 1-2 years, with antipsychotic medications. However, it is important to emphasise that medication only ever plays a part in the recovery process and that other psychological treatments, rehabilitative interventions, lifestyle, family support, environmental and other changes are also of critical importance. In addition to antipsychotic medications there are other medications and supplements that can sometimes be helpful in the treatment of psychosis.
There are numerous medications which can be used for psychosis, each of which may have different benefits and potential side effects. There is no single antipsychotic medication which is most effective for everyone, and the choice of medication is usually made following discussions between the patient and prescribing doctor.
Cognitive behavioural therapy is a helpful talking therapy which is used for recognising symptoms of psychosis, identifying relapse triggers, and learning to cope with symptoms of psychosis. Family education can also be hugely beneficial in assisting recovery from psychotic illnesses, and occupational therapy often plays a crucial role in rehabilitation.
Similar to many other medical illnesses, early detection and treatment of psychosis leads to better outcomes. Early intervention strategies are gaining recognition as a crucial aspect of the management approach to psychosis. Efforts at educating the public, and others likely to come into contact with people developing psychosis, such as General Practitioners, teachers, counsellors, and gardai, has been shown to improve the long term outcome of psychotic illnesses, by leading to earlier identification and treatment of these illnesses. The reason for this better outcome isn’t fully clear, but it is believed to occur by reducing the toxicity caused to people suffering with psychosis. For example it is possible that psychotic symptoms may cause biological damage to the brain, or that the experience of psychotic symptoms may damage thought processes in the brain. It is also thought that the social consequences of symptoms early on in psychotic illnesses, such as loss of a job, or damage to relationships may have a detrimental effect on long term outcome.
The HSE has a clinical programme on Early Intervention in Psychosis in partnership with the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland. For more information on the programme, click here.