Signs, Symptoms, and Effects of Teen Psychosis

Understanding the signs and symptoms of psychosis is an important first step in the recovery journey. Learning more about the causes and signs of psychosis will help identify it in you or a loved one.

Understanding Psychosis

Learn More About Teen Psychosis

When experienced as a symptom of mental illness, being detached from reality can be a troubling feeling. Teens who are experiencing visual or auditory hallucinations (seeing or hearing something that isn’t there) or delusions (an entrenched belief in something that is untrue) may be suffering a psychotic episode. When this happens, immediate medical attention should be sought to safeguard their well-being.

A state of psychosis can result from the onset of certain serious mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Additionally, a psychotic state can occur due to stress related to acute trauma or abuse.

It should be noted that the use of certain drugs can also cause hallucinations and delusions. Even certain medical complications can elicit symptoms that mirror a psychotic state. Under these circumstances, an individual should not be considered to be in a state of psychosis.


Statistics of Teen Psychosis

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), less than 1% of the U.S. population suffers from mental illnesses associated with psychosis. However, since these conditions aren’t typically diagnosed until early adulthood, psychosis in teens is not common.

Causes and Risks

Causes and Risk Factors for Teen Psychosis

As is the case with symptoms of many other mental health disorders, a teen’s risk for experiencing psychosis may be affected by several genetic and environmental factors, including the following:

Genetic: Studies have identified a genetic link between family members who develop mental health conditions that include psychotic features. Therefore, individuals who have close relatives that have been diagnosed with certain mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia, are more likely to develop the condition themselves.

Physical: Some experts point to organic medical conditions like metabolic imbalances, renal disease, neurological conditions, endocrine disorders, and autoimmune disorders as contributors to the onset of episodes of psychosis.

Environmental: Sometimes, trauma, chaos, and extreme amounts of stress and change can trigger periods of short-term psychosis. This experience includes an abrupt onset and eventual resolution, and is referred to as brief psychotic disorder.

Risk Factors:

  • Suffering from significantly impaired social functioning
  • Having recently given birth
  • Being exposed to toxic substances
  • Experiencing severe trauma
  • Substance abuse or addiction
  • Having a mental health disorder
  • Exposed to more negative life events
  • Having a family history of psychiatric disorders

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Teen Psychosis

Teens are known to have abrupt shifts in mood, and at times, their behavior, while developmentally appropriate, may seem somewhat bizarre to adults. However, teens who are experiencing psychosis will exhibit severe symptoms that will undoubtedly prompt concern from others. If a teen in your life begins demonstrating any of the signs and symptoms listed below, you should seek professional help.

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Self-harming behaviors
  • Disorganized behavior
  • Bizarre and/or inappropriate behaviors

Physical symptoms:

  • Shakes or tremors
  • Disorganized speech
  • Neglecting personal hygiene

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Hallucinations and delusions
  • Extreme paranoia
  • Depression
  • Inability to make decisions
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Not responding to external stimuli

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Depersonalization
  • Social withdrawal
  • Being overly emotional or incapable of showing any emotion
  • Losing interest in things they used to enjoy


Effects of Teen Psychosis

Teens who do not receive support to help them manage the symptoms of psychosis will likely experience a worsening of their condition over time. Whatever mental health disorder contributed to the onset of symptoms will continue to produce a variety of damaging effects including the following:

  • Academic failure
  • Social isolation
  • Substance addiction
  • Homelessness
  • Joblessness
  • Self-harm
  • Decreased ability to carry out activities of daily living
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Violent behaviors
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-Occurring Disorders and the Complexity of Teen Psychosis

Teens who begin to display prodromal or weak psychotic symptoms are at risk for developing a full-blown psychotic disorder, in addition to several other co-occurring mental health disorders, including the following:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Schizoaffective disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Certain forms of dementia
  • Substance Abuse
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