Sometimes stress and feelings of being overwhelmed, often linked to past traumatic experiences can lead us to become confused or preoccupied, and we may begin to dissociate from what most people consider to be reality.
We might hear voices when there is no-one there, or perhaps see, taste, smell or feel things that other people don't (sometimes called hallucinations).
We might have strong fears or beliefs that other people don’t share or find strange (sometimes called delusions).
We might have difficulty concentrating or thinking straight. We may also experience periods where we feel elated, 'high' and full of energy, but also often agitated and restless, and we find it hard to sleep.
If these experiences go on for a while we can end up feeling exhausted and find it hard to motivate ourselves to do even basic things like washing and dressing. This exhaustion and lethargy can also be related to the medication that is sometimes prescribed.
These experiences are sometimes referred to as psychosis, schizophrenia, or nervous breakdown.
Alternating experiences of elation and restlessness, and low mood and lethargy are sometimes called 'bipolar'
Feeling isolated and alone is very stressful. Connecting with others with similar experiences either informally or in organised peer support groups can be a big help. Therapy or counselling allows us to make sense of our experiences, talk through what might help, and try things out with support in a calm and non-judgmental atmosphere. Some people find medication helpful.
Friends and family can be a huge support, but times of distress and confusion are stressful for everyone. It can be helpful to talk to people specifically trained in helping families, in meetings where the emphasis is on listening to everyone’s understanding of the situation and working out a way forward together. One such approach is called 'Open Dialogue'.