Young people may worry that they are ‘going mad’ when they are feeling stressed, confused or very upset. In fact, worries like this are rarely a sign of mental illness or psychosis. Psychosis is when your thoughts are so disturbed (and confused) that you lose touch with what is real and what is not.

Unusual experiences called ‘hallucinations’, such as seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting or feeling something that is not really there, can also be a symptom of psychosis. Hallucinations are very real to the person having them and this can be frightening and can get in the way of everyday activities like concentrating on lessons and homework at school or even socialising with friends.

Sometimes people with psychosis can struggle to recognise that they have a problem or it can be confusing to understand what is happening. This can make it hard to know what to believe and trust other people who may be worried about them.

Psychosis affects people of all ages, but is rare before you reach the older teenage years. Although psychosis is rare, many people may hear voices that other people cannot hear or experience other hallucinations. Hearing voices or having other hallucinations does not mean that a person is definitely experiencing psychosis.

Top tips

  • Alcohol and drugs can make symptoms such as hallucinations or not being sure what is real or not real, worse. Try to avoid drinking alcohol excessively or taking illegal drugs.
  • Lack of sleep or disrupted sleep, not eating or drinking properly or high levels of stress can also make hallucinations worse. It is important for physical and mental wellbeing to look after yourself.
  • Try to have a balanced daily routine, have a good night time routine and eat and drink regularly. Relaxing is also important so make sure you have time to chill out during stressful times such as revising for exams.

Things that could help

Voice Collective is a UK-wide, London-based project that supports children and young people up to 25 years old who hear voices, see visions, have other ‘unusual’ sensory experiences or beliefs. Voice Collective: Supporting Children & Young People who Hear Voices or See Visions.

If families or professionals are concerned that a young person is hearing voices or experiencing other types of hallucinations which they are finding confusing or worrying then they should contact CAMHS Single Point of Access for consultation and advice. CAMHS work alongside the Early Intervention in Psychosis (EIP) team and can offer specialist assessment and treatment for people with symptoms of psychosis.

Available: Monday to Friday: 9am – 5pm

Please contact: 0300 123 6632.