Pediatric Psychosis

Psychosis is a mental illness that causes your child to lose touch with reality. This means they could see or hear things that aren’t really there or believe in things that aren’t real. Our team, at Children's Health℠, uses the latest treatments – tailored to your child’s needs – to help your child’s thinking improve and help stabilize their emotions.





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What is Pediatric Psychosis?

Psychosis is a mental health condition that affects how your child’s brain understands information. Your child might say they can see or hear things others can’t. They may also have unusual beliefs or perceptions that are far outside reality.

What are the different types of Pediatric Psychosis?

Psychosis happens for different reasons. Types of psychosis include:

Psychosis caused by schizophrenia

Schizophrenia, a mental health illness that affects how people think, feel and behave, can cause psychosis. When children have psychosis caused by schizophrenia, they often experience delusions (believing in things that aren’t real), hallucinations (seeing, feeling or hearing things that aren’t there) and have unusual and unpredictable thoughts (like thinking they’re communicating with characters from books or movies).

Psychosis due to a substance

Psychosis can be a side effect of prescribed medications or can be caused by illegal drugs. We’ll do a thorough evaluation to understand if the medications or substances your child is taking may be causing psychosis.

Psychosis related to mood disorders

Some mood disorders (like bipolar disorder) can cause psychosis. If that’s the case, your child might suffer from hallucinations or delusions. However, not every child with a mood disorder will experience psychosis.

Psychosis with a developmental feature

Severe illnesses or injuries may cause a child to develop psychosis. For example, an infection in the brain or a brain injury may cause behavior and thought changes in a child. This could lead them to hear, see or believe in things that aren’t real.

What are the signs and symptoms of Pediatric Psychosis?

Common symptoms of psychosis include:

  • Unusual beliefs or believing in things that are far outside the ordinary
  • Hearing things other people can’t hear
  • Seeing things other people can’t see
  • Changes in a child’s facial expressions
  • Trouble communicating
  • Lack of interest in activities or hobbies

How is Pediatric Psychosis diagnosed?

To diagnose psychosis, we first need to understand when and how it started. This will help us understand your child’s symptoms and rule out other conditions. If your child's doctor thinks they may be experiencing psychosis, they will typically:

  • Ask you and your child about recent changes in your child's perceptions or unusual beliefs
  • Ask if your child has had any hallucination experiences
  • Ask about changes in your child’s behavior
  • Ask about your family's medical and mental health history
  • Complete a medical examination to rule out other medical conditions
  • Possibly use brain imaging or other tests to confirm that there are no underlying medical conditions

What causes Pediatric Psychosis?

It’s hard to know what causes psychosis in a particular child. It may be caused by (or related to) another illness or injury, substance abuse (like using drugs or alcohol) or genetics.

How is Pediatric Psychosis treated?

The most effective treatment for psychosis is a combination of medication and therapy.


Medications called antipsychotics help decrease delusions and hallucinations, while improving your child’s motivation and emotional well-being.


We can also do one-on-one therapy sessions with your child or therapy sessions for your whole family. This helps us learn more about what your child and your family is going through so we can find ways to help.

Pediatric Psychosis Doctors and Providers

We have psychologists, psychiatrists and therapists on our team.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What can we expect from my child’s treatment?

    If your child’s psychosis makes it unsafe for them to remain at home or in school, they might need to be hospitalized at some point. Ongoing outpatient medication and therapy appointments are very important for children struggling with psychosis.

    Sometimes, psychosis changes as your child grows, so your doctor may recommend changes in medication or therapy if symptoms return. Be patient, encourage your child to talk about their feelings and moods, and help your child understand that treatment can help.

  • How long does treatment take?

    The length of treatment depends on the type of psychosis your child has and what's causing it. Some children improve with therapy and medication as an outpatient. Others may need to spend time in the hospital and go through more intensive therapy to manage their condition.

    Psychosis can get better with the right combination of medication and therapy.