Psychosis (young people)

Andrew Z

Male
Age at interview: 23
Age at diagnosis: 20

Brief outline: Andrew started experiencing short periods of psychosis at the age of twenty, which involved racing thoughts and false memories. He also has a diagnoses of Asperger’s.

Background: Andrew is single and a full time student. He is White British.

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Andrew was acting in a play when he first noticed he was having false memories: remembering things in the play which had not happened. Although the memories felt very real, they also seemed odd, and he thought he might be experiencing psychosis. He has since had 5 short episodes of psychosis during which he experiences false memories and racing thoughts.

Andrew studies at university and being a student with psychosis has been challenging. When he first experienced psychosis he was finding it hard to concentrate with reading and listening in lectures and couldn’t keep up with his work. At the same time a specialist support tutor for Asperger’s stopped seeing him due to financial cuts and this increased his stress and contributed to a worsening of his mental health. He hadn’t been diagnosed at that point and the university were not very understanding and made him leave his course. He has since started studying at another university.

A psychiatrist has since confirmed he had a psychotic episode and he regularly sees the Early Intervention in Psychosis team. He finds it helpful to have someone to talk to.

Socialising and talking to others is really important to Andrew but when the “buzzing thoughts” mean he can’t sit still or concentrate on what others are saying and he sometimes starts reacting to the thoughts. One time when he stopped taking prescribed medication, he started having “weird interpretations of social events”. This affected his social interactions with other students, and since then he tends not to socialise as much when he is experiencing psychosis. Not being able to meet with friends during those periods has been “frustrating”, because his friends continue to socialise and develop their friendships without him.

When he experienced psychosis Andrew felt restless and walked up to 30 miles in a day. Although he thinks exercise is good, that much exercise wasn’t good for him and didn’t stop the “buzzing” in his head. 

Andrew has always managed on very little sleep. Before his first experience of psychosis he used to go to sleep at 2am and sleep for four hours. He’s always liked spending a few hours getting to sleep and reflecting on the day. But during the psychotic episodes he hardly slept at all. He could be awake for four days straight and then sleep for as little as one hour. 

Andrew currently takes olanzapine (anti-psychotic). He was given a very low dose (2.5mg) after his first experience of psychosis and it had a positive effect “literally the next day”, and made him feel “normal again”. But he now takes a higher dose, 10mg, and, although it helps, he finds that it makes him sleep in in the mornings. He has very vivid dreams which are “semi-hallucinatory”.

Andrew wants to help others. He is currently involved in setting up a peer support group at a local mental health ward. The university where he studies now also has a student mentoring scheme and he has signed up to be a peer mentor himself for people experiencing psychosis.

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