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Brief Episodes of Psychosis?

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Hi, this has been bothering me for quite some time. I am looking to get some clarity about some major psychological symptoms I suffered from in the past which actually became alleviated on there own. Now in hindsight I’m wondering what happened. I am a 36yr old female. When I was between the ages of 11-19 my home life was incredibly tumultuous and stressful. Not surprisingly, I suffered from insomnia and from 16-19 began taking a fair amount of Melatonin to try and get my sleep cycle back in order – which didn’t work. All of my symptoms only came on at night – not when I was sleeping but the house was quiet and everyone else in bed. I would have auditory hallucinations of people talking in the attic above me or outside my window. Always just low enough so I couldn’t make out what they were saying but loud enough that I was absolutely positive someone was there. I was also incredibly paranoid about people breaking into my house (and thinking I would hear people breaking in) which would lead me to be up and down all night checking out sounds and checking doors to make sure they were locked. This went on almost every night for months at a time over several years. Eventually, I moved out, began to create healthy limits with my family and the symptoms subsided. Aside from a few episodes of sleep-walking, everything was pretty normal until I was about 27-29. I moved into a house with my not-yet husband and was unhappy at my job but the stress was nowhere near the level of my previous home life. Again, the symptoms resurfaced. I wasn’t sleeping. I was stay awake or sit up in bed for hours because I kept thinking I heard people breaking into the house. I was hearing noises and get up again and again all night checking things out, only to have no signs of anything amiss. Eventually, the symptoms subsided, I quit my job and haven’t had these symptoms since. Yes, I do have a history of mental illness in the family – Bi-polor disorder, schizo-affective disorder and major anxiety disorders. Can someone explain what may have been happening to me? I appreciate this so much.

Brief Episodes of Psychosis?

Answered by on -

A.

I doubt seriously that anyone could, with certainty, explain the cause of the events that you have described in your letter. Though I cannot conclusively explain the cause, I may be able to add some insight as to the possible cause. First of all, according to your letter these events only happened at night when the rest of the household was sleeping. This tells me that, in all likelihood, you were also trying to sleep or at least in a time period designated for sleep.

When we are awake we are conscious and when we are asleep we are unconscious. That would be simple enough if it were a binary system or a digital system where conscious was a one and unconscious was a zero but instead it is an analog system. If we think of consciousness as a one and unconsciousness as a zero, an analog system tells us that there are an infinite number of points between one and zero. There is a 1.0 and a .99 and a .999 and a .099, etc. In other words, there are many states between conscious and unconscious. These states are generally known as altered states of consciousness. You can think of a state of meditation, or hypnosis as an altered state of consciousness. An altered state is a mixture of the conscious mind and the unconscious mind. As you are very well aware, dreaming occurs during sleep and is a product of the unconscious mind. The unconscious mind is more than capable of producing every sight, every sound, every smell, every feeling and to produce these with the realism that at times seems actually more than real. Almost everyone has had a nightmare that was so real, so terrifying that they stayed up the rest of the night so as not to take a chance at returning to the same dream.

You stated in your letter that these events occurred during two specific periods in your life, both of these were periods of fear or anxiety. You also mentioned difficulty sleeping during these periods. Fear or anxiety inhibits the transition from consciousness to sleep. In essence, during these periods you were not asleep nor were you awake. You were in-between sleep and full consciousness and most likely experiencing an altered state of consciousness.

I hope I’ve shed a little light on a possible cause for the experiences encountered during your sleepless nights. Good luck.

Dr. Kristina Randle

Brief Episodes of Psychosis?

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist and Assistant Professor of Social Work and Forensics with extensive experience in the field of mental health. She works in private practice with adults, adolescents and families. Kristina has worked in a large array of settings including community mental health, college counseling and university research centers.

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2018). Brief Episodes of Psychosis?. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 16, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2017/03/28/brief-episodes-of-psychosis/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
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