Mental Health, Autism & Learning Disabilities in the Criminal Courts

Information for magistrates, district judges and court staff

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ii. Psychosis

Psychosis is less common. About 1 in 100 people have psychosis (Royal College of Psychiatrists, 2011). It is classed as a ‘severe mental illness’. The most common psychotic conditions are schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (manic depression).

The main symptoms of psychosis are hallucinations and delusions.

Hallucinations are experiencing something that isn’t really there. This can affect all the senses – sight, smell, taste, touch and sound. Hearing voices is the most common hallucination in schizophrenia. These voices may tell the person to do something, or be critical of the person. This can be very distressing.

Delusions are false beliefs. For example, someone with schizophrenia may think that someone is trying to harm them, or that they are an actor playing out a part in a film. Due to these beliefs, the person may act strangely.

Common symptoms of schizophrenia:

  • difficulties in determining what is real or not
  • muddled thinking and speech
  • difficulty in relating to others
  • little motivation
  • self neglect and poor hygiene.

Common symptoms of bipolar disorder (manic depression):

  • extreme changes in mood, from severe lows (depression) to highs (mania) with regular moods in-between 
  • symptoms of mania include increased self esteem, talking quickly, racing thoughts, delusions, hallucinations, acting irrationally.

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