Does Psychosis Cause Permanent Brain Damage? What Can You Do?

Although researchers are still seeking answers to the question—does psychosis cause brain damage?—what we do know points us toward effective treatment. As soon as possible, after a loved one experiences a psychotic episode, reach out for professional advice and care. A longer duration of untreated psychosis can lead to poorer outcomes and less effective treatments.

While there are still certain things we don’t know about psychotic episodes, the things we do know could thoroughly pave the way for a fulfilling life in recovery. If you or someone you know has experienced a psychotic episode, early psychiatric attention is the best insurance for overall wellness and positive quality of life.

Researchers are still working to answer the question: does psychosis cause brain damage? But there is no lingering question about whether psychosis damages a person’s life. Psychotic episodes are an indication of an underlying disorder or other problem that needs immediate attention and treatment. When left untreated, the causes and the symptoms of psychosis both pose dangerous risks to a person’s overall well-being. Fortunately, the options for treatment involve comprehensive assessment and care for all aspects of a person’s life and health.

Does Untreated Psychosis Cause Brain Damage?


The duration of untreated psychosis, or DUP, is a significant factor in the prognosis for a psychotic disorder or related condition. The more time passes between the first psychosis symptoms and adequate treatment, the poorer the prognosis. Evidence suggests that early treatment—and a shorter DUP—promotes better symptom improvement and overall functioning in everyday life.

There is yet inadequate proof to say conclusively that psychosis causes permanent brain damage. But researchers are still pursuing a better understanding of the neurological impact of psychotic episodes. And, regardless of the cause-and-effect realities involved, immediate clinical attention for symptoms of psychosis is widely recommended.

The known risks of untreated psychosis can include:

  • Difficulties with work or school performance
  • Possible job loss
  • Financial issues
  • Legal issues
  • Hospitalization
  • Substance abuse—possibly as a form of self-medication
  • Isolation
  • Possible homelessness
  • Relationship problems and losses
  • Worsening symptoms of co-occurring disorders
  • Worsening symptoms of medical disorders
  • Possible self-harm or even suicide

You can help to limit the duration of untreated psychosis and reduce these dangerous risks by helping someone get on the track toward healing. It may be possible that someone who is overwhelmed with psychotic symptoms may not be capable of identifying and advocating for their needs. Even if you aren’t entirely sure what kind of treatment is right for them, you can help by making the connection with a treatment center. These mental health professionals will be able to guide you on the next right steps toward supported recovery.

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What Should You Do If a Loved One Experiences a Psychotic Episode?


When someone you care about is experiencing hallucinations, delusions, or severe paranoia, it can be frightening, to say the least. You might hope that it was a one-time incident, but if this person goes an extended period of time without treatment for psychosis, it’s possible that their treatment options will be less effective once they do finally start them. And it’s common for one’s quality of life to get progressively worse with untreated psychosis.

Without a diagnosis, it may be very difficult for you to know the cause of your loved one’s psychotic episode or episodes. These symptoms could be the result of various mental health disorders, medical conditions, injuries, drug use, and serious cognitive decline. In any case, the earlier someone receives a clinical diagnosis, the earlier they can receive appropriate treatment. And their best chances for recovery will be within reach.

How to Get in Touch with Professional Help

Initiating the next steps toward recovery can be as easy as making a phone call. When you call a treatment center, the mental health professionals on the other end are ready to ease your mind because help is available.

What to Expect from Treatment

Because you may not know whether your loved one’s psychosis stems from schizophrenia or a medical condition or something in between, they need to be evaluated for a clinical diagnosis as soon as possible. Once clinicians reach a diagnosis, they’ll be able to determine the very best treatment path suited to the individual. Treatment specialists will take into account all of the therapeutic options that can support a well-rounded life in recovery. And even after your loved one completes a dedicated treatment program, they will have on-going care and support available. So, act now while there is hope for resilience in comprehensive recovery.

BrightQuest offers comprehensive long-term treatment for people struggling with mental health disorders and co-occurring substance use disorders and process addictions. Contact us to learn more about our renowned program and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward recovery.