What Causes Psychosis?

There is still a lot we don’t know about the exact causes of psychosis. But researchers have a pretty good idea that – just like many health conditions – it’s caused by a mix of family history (a “genetic vulnerability” that you’re born with) and stress from life events, drugs or illness.*

Jar of pennies

To understand a little about how these two factors work together, imagine your brain as a jar.


As the jar fills up with stressors (ahem, pennies), the way your brain cells communicate with one another begins to change.

When the jar spills over, you brain’s processing of information and emotions is impacted, resulting in trouble perceiving reality. This stress overload state is basically what we call a “psychotic episode.”

Some people have no family history of psychosis, some have a small amount, and others have a large amount.

While it’s totally possible for anyone to experience psychosis given the right set of stressors, it takes a smaller amount of stress to trigger psychosis in people who are born with a genetic vulnerability. So, if you have a family history of mental health issues, limiting stress and being aware of risk factors for psychosis is extra important.


*Apart from psychiatric disorders, psychosis can be caused by a wide range of other medical conditions, including neurological disorders, heavy metal poisoning and nutritional deficiencies. Check this comprehensive list to learn more.

Up next:


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