Psychosis & Schizophrenia

Psychosis is a symptom of schizophrenia and other psychological or medical conditions, and there is help.

My clients diagnosed with schizophrenia or psychotic symptoms have had great success using EMDR.

Along with ongoing consultation from Dr. Paul Miller, author of EMDR therapy for Schizophrenia and Other Psychoses, I take a trauma-based approach to relieving stressful symptoms. 

– Jenna Burton

The American Psychiatric Association Defines Five Features of Psychosis

Psychosis occurs when a person is confused about reality and displays disorganized thoughts and abnormal speech. Key features of psychosis are hallucinations or delusions.

Psychosis is not its own condition. It is a symptom of other conditions. There is a spectrum of psychotic disorders that are medical or psychological nature. The spectrum includes different levels of schizophrenia based on the duration of symptoms and other factors.

The American Psychiatric Association DSM-5 addresses five key features of psychosis.

Issues Related To Psychosis

  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Sleeping too much or not enough
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Detaching from family & friends

Medical and psychological conditions that list psychosis as a primary symptom.

  • Schizophrenia
  • Epilepsy
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Dementia
  • Post-Partem Psychosis
  • Bi-polar
  • Psychotic Depression

Hallucinations of Sight, Sound, and Touch

Hallucinations occur when your senses pick up messages that do not exist outside your brain. They feel real because your brain is sending a message, but there is nothing externally prompting the brain to communicate.

Hearing voices or sounds

Auditory hallucinations are common schizophrenia symptoms.

Crawling feeling on the skin

Tactile hallucinations are associated with touch and feel. People report feeling bugs crawling on their skin. This is usually a reaction to Illegal or prescription drugs.

Smelling something not real

Olfactory hallucinations can prompt seizures as in epilepsy, a stroke, or after head trauma.


Delusions are false thoughts or beliefs. A person is delusional when they believe something that is verifiably false. There are different forms of delusions.

  • Control – someone thinks an outside force is controlling their actions or trying to control them.
  • Persecution – paranoia, believing an authority, like the government,  is out to get them, spy on them, or poison them.
  • Grandeur – someone thinks they have a special talent, powers, or intellect. They believe they are meant to be famous or a divinely chosen leader.
  • Reference – A person believes someone on a youtube video, a social media feed, or television show is speaking directly to them.

Grossly Disorganized or Abnormal Motor Behavior (including Catatonia)

Bodily movements become abnormal to various degrees. Catatonic behavior is a low reaction to a person’s surroundings or environment.  This includes ignoring instructions, holding a strange posture, or lack of verbal or physical responses. 

Negative Symptoms

Losing different emotional connections and responses you once had.  The first two types listed below are usually present in schizophrenia.

Diminished Emotional Expression

A lack of facial expressions or hand gestures that used to be your normal show of personality when communicating with others.

Loss of Motivation

Medical term – Avolition. Loss of initiative, or desire to find purpose or be productive.

Diminished Speech Output

Medical term – Alogia.

Loss of experiencing pleasure

Medical term – Anhedonia. Decreased ability to experience pleasure from positive stimuli or a lost sense of pleasure previously experienced.

Disconnecting Socially or Asociality

Lack of interest in social interactions and may be associated with avolition, but it can also be a manifestation of limited opportunities for social interactions.

Disorganized Thinking and Speech

Speaking strangely, like unusual topic switching during conversations or giving bizarre answers to questions. Relating things that don’t make sense. Another way to describe speaking is “out of the ordinary” behavior in ordinary situations.

The severe and rare cases can cause speech to be incomprehensible to others who speak the same language.

Schizophrenia Spectrum Describes Psychosis Symptoms

Schizophrenia can be diagnosed after all other conditions with psychotic features are ruled out. For instance, substance addiction would be considered before schizophrenia. Then a time frame for each symptom is measured.

A label for a psychotic disorder is given based on how long specific symptoms last.  So for example when symptoms last more than 1 day but less than a month it is referred to as Brief psychotic disorder.

Similarly Schizoaffective disorder, schizophreniform disorder,  and schizophrenia are all labels describing the duration and intensity of psychotic symptoms. Schizophrenia is only diagnosed when specific symptoms last longer than six months.

Men & Women Usually Show Signs In Early Adulthood

Men show signs in the late teens or early 20’s. Women’s symptoms usually appear in the late 20’s to early 30’s.

Early symptoms in teens are difficult to catch because there are many other more likely conditions with similar issues, like depression and anxiety.  Other conditions can point to schizophrenia, however, they can also be independent of any psychotic disorders.

  • Withdrawal from friends, family, and activities
  • Problems at school or work
  • Mood changes and unexplained agitation

EMDR Relieves Schizophrenia Symptoms Caused by Environmental Factors

Psychosis and Schizophrenia symptoms describe a disturbed thought process involving distorted beliefs and feelings of insecurity.

Psychotic symptoms can be difficult to understand but above all, they should be viewed as how a person is adapting to their dysfunctionally stored memories.

Psychosis and Schizophrenia Symptoms Have Similarities with Trauma Based Conditions.

Complex Trauma, PTSD, and dissociative disorders all stem from trauma and EMDR relieves their disturbing symptoms.

Trauma happens when the body goes through an event it is not prepared to handle. Resulting in dysfunctional thoughts sometime after the event.

Therefore, behaviors need to be interpreted without negative thoughts, emotions, and body sensations that have been attached and replayed over and over.

Causes of Schizophrenia

Current science points to different factors contributing to psychosis and schizophrenia symptoms.

Brain Chemistry

Biochemicals in the brain. Some studies show complications at birth influence brain make-up.


This includes relationships, stress, substance use. How you grew up and other cultural factors.


A family history increases the odds but does not guarantee a disorder.

I am part of an international group that collaborates and publishes on trauma-based Psychosis and Schizophrenia.

If you or a loved one would like more information, please contact me to schedule a free phone consultation to discuss how I may be able to help.

Get Your Life Back

You or your loved one don’t have to go into residential treatment to deal with psychosis.