Could This Have Been Psychosis?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

This post is about my sister. We’re pretty close in age(We are both teenagers) Like me, she has been diagnosed with major depressive disorder & she also has terrible anxiety. I’ve been getting increasingly worried about her because of her gruesome thoughts and withdrawal from family/friends. Lately she’s been very paranoid about demons/ghosts spying on her. But yesterday something very, very strange/scary happened. We were home alone together while my parents were still at work and she went into her room after we had a snack together. She seemed like her usual self(Which still obviously isn’t completely stable, but nothing out of the ordinary.) 15 minutes later she came down the stairs with her hands over her face and she was shrieking and crying. I was terrified. I thought she had hurt herself or something. I asked whats wrong and she kept repeating “MY EYES ARE BLACK, MY EYES ARE BLACK PLEASE HELP ME”, I stared at her, grabbed her arms and repeated “Your eyes are NOT black.” She said “YOU CAN’T SEE IT BECAUSE YOU DONT HAVE THE ABILITIES” She was really scared and she was crying and lashing her arms around. The first few times I denied her eyes were black she hit me on the shoulder. Not super hard, but hard enough to be painful. She said its the demons and she failed at protecting herself. For the next 10 minutes she was clawing at her face(So hard she still has scratches the next day) It took her 20 minutes to calm down and afterwards I tried to distract her with videos until my mom got home.

I told my mom about this incident, and she doesn’t know what to think. I asked my sister about this afternoon, and she seemed somewhat confused and didn’t seem to interested in discussing it. I just let it go because I didn’t want to upset her. She has an appointment with her psychiatrist coming up, but he is very set on his opinion that everything she experiences is caused by her anxiety. Could this be? Or could it be something more..?

Thanks!

A. It’s possible that your sister is experiencing a break with reality. She believes in ideas that are not real. She seems to believe that she’s being attacked by demons. By definition, this would be a delusion. A delusion is a belief in something despite there being evidence to the contrary.

The event that you described is particularly concerning because it led to her hurting you and herself. She attacked you because of fear. She may have hurt herself because she was attempting to fight off the demon that she thought was attacking her.

You are correct to be concerned. Her psychiatrist believes she has an anxiety disorder but the symptom you described may be a delusion, which is associated with psychosis. Only a thorough evaluation could properly determine what is wrong with your sister.

My recommendation is to report this incident to her psychiatrist. If he is unconcerned with the information that you have shared, then consider consulting a new psychiatrist. Getting a second opinion is always a wise idea.

In the meantime, try to keep your sister feeling safe and calm. Always try to reduce the stress levels in the home as much as possible. Stress is known to exacerbate both symptoms of psychosis and anxiety. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 May 2014

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2014). Could This Have Been Psychosis?. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 30, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/05/21/could-this-have-been-psychosis/

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