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HealthInfo Canterbury

Psychosis in teens & young adults

FDP girl on roofMost people who develop psychosis for the first time do so when they are 18 or older, although it can develop in teenagers as young as 13.

When a young person's behaviour changes it can be difficult to know if it's part of their normal development, or something more serious like the beginning of a psychotic disorder.

Because young people are still developing, an emerging psychotic disorder may look quite different compared with an adult who's experiencing psychosis for the first time.

In teenagers, hallucinations are not normally the result of psychosis – they're most often related to severe anxiety or traumatic experiences. Up to 10% of teenagers may have hallucinations. Some psychotic young people simply withdraw, without any obvious changes in their thinking, and struggle to do day-to-day tasks that they managed well before.

When teenagers start showing psychotic symptoms it can take a lot of watching and waiting before it becomes clear if they have a mental illness and what it might be.

Child, Adolescent & Family Service

If you are between 13 and 18 when you develop psychotic symptoms your GP may refer you to the Child, Adolescent & Family Service. This service has a team of healthcare workers who manage young people who may be developing a psychotic disorder. It provides a similar service to the adult service provided by Totara House, but designed for teenagers.

The service can also offer support to parents of children who may be developing a psychotic disorder.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by consultant psychiatrist, Canterbury DHB. Last reviewed December 2020. Page updated October 2021,


See also:

Overview of psychosis

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Page reference: 243307

Review key: HIPSY-124133