The words “crazy” or “deranged” are often bantered about, as is the word “psychotic.” But when parents hear the word “psychotic,” especially when it is being used to describe her child, it can be a very scary prospect. Given our current culture, most people associate psychotic with being a schizophrenic, and this can really send a parent into a tailspin.
What Is a Psychosis?
Psychosis is a fancy word for a separation from reality. When the mind is severely impaired, an individual loses the ability to distinguish whether what he is experiencing is real or false. This loss of reality falls into two categories: hallucinations (auditory, visual, and olfactory) and delusions.
If a child is experiencing an auditory hallucination, he will say that he hears voices. Although it is obvious to everyone else that there are no voices, for the child, the voices are very real. The scariest part of this is that a lot of patients with auditory hallucinations report that the voices are encouraging the individual to hurt himself or others. This is dangerous because at that time the child is unable to distinguish between real voices and the voices of her psychosis. Thus, the potential for harm is present.
You cannot talk your child out of his hallucinations. Remember, these visions, voices, and smells are very real and present for the severely depressed child. Arguing the absurdity of the situation is futile and may result in your child keeping that information a secret rather than risking not being believed.
Just like auditory hallucinations, those with a visual quality contain images that the child thinks are very real. She might report seeing a dead person, or a lot of people standing in a group. Others have said that the people they see are not recognizable. Having these hallucinations often makes people feel paranoid, as if someone is watching or coming after them.
Before you panic, remember that these symptoms occur only in the most severe cases of depression. It is frightening at the very least to watch your child answer a voice, respond to something he sees, or complain of a strong odor that just isn't there. The good news is that these symptoms go away with treatment.
Other strange sensations that can occur are olfactory hallucinations, where a person reports that she smells certain odors. Like visual and auditory hallucinations, the smells are authentic for the psychotic individual. Olfactory hallucinations are less common in children, but they do occur.