What is psychosis? Helen Flanagan shares experiences

Helen Flanagan, pictured, who has detailed her experience of psychosis. (Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)
Helen Flanagan has explained that a 'bad reaction' to ADHD medication lead her to experience psychosis. (Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)

Helen Flanagan has revealed she experienced psychosis after a reaction to her mental health medication.

The actor, 33, shared how she was sent into psychosis following a "bad reaction" to the medication she takes for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Flanagan explained that the experience caused her to pull out of a theatre tour of Cluedo 2 as she tried to get her mental wellbeing back on track.

Alongside a selfie of her smiling, she wrote: "Had a few months off from social but I’m back now.

"So basically I really struggled mental health wise December/January. I felt really not great in my head over Christmas and I didn’t really feel that much different when I took the kids away for new year."

The former Coronation Street star explained she'd had a lot of difficult things going on in her private life that she can't discuss on social media, but she recently split with footballer Scott Sinclair, with whom she shares Matilda, seven, Delilah, five, and Charlie, two.

"I felt terrible, so I was due my theatre tour which I was excited about so when I came back from holiday I thought it was best for me to take some medication so I’d feel better and be able to cope better with being a working single mum of three and I was emotionally struggling with the break up from the father of my kids."

Flanagan went on to explain she had "a really bad reaction though to the medication (an ADHD medication) and it sent me into a psychosis for a few days which I didn’t know I was in."

The actor went on to explain she experienced the reaction a few days before the start of rehearsals, which meant she didn't feel well enough to co it mentally.

"I was heartbroken as I’ve always been professional as an actress but i needed to stay at home and feel better for me and my kids, with the help of my amazing parents," she continued.

Flanagan added she felt like she was in a "really good happy place", and has found therapy to be "amazing".

She continued: "I feel like I’ve worked on myself with things that were quite tough to me but I feel lighter now."

Woman feeling stressed in bed. (Getty Images)
There are various potential trigger factors for psychosis. (Getty Images)

What is psychosis?

Symptoms of psychosis

  • hallucinations – where a person hears, sees and, in some cases, feels, smells or tastes things that do not exist outside their mind for example hearing voices.

  • delusions – where a person has strong beliefs that are not shared by others.

  • disordered thinking and speaking - a person's thoughts and ideas come very quickly, which can make their speech fast and confusing.

The NHS explains that experiencing the symptoms of psychosis is often referred to as having a psychotic episode.

Causes of psychosis

It's sometimes possible to identify the cause of psychosis as a specific mental health condition, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or severe depression.

There can also be some triggers of psychosis including:

  • a traumatic experience

  • stress

  • drug misuse

  • alcohol misuse

  • side effects of prescribed medicine

  • a physical condition, such as a brain tumour or dementia

  • head injury

  • childbirth

Woman experiencing a psychotic episode. (Getty Images)
Experts recommend seeking medical help if you are experiencing a psychotic episode. (Getty Images)

Treatment for psychosis

This can depend on the cause, but according to the NHS typically involves a combination of:

  • antipsychotic medicine

  • talking therapies – including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and family interventions

  • social support

Some people are recommended to take antipsychotics on a long-term basis (and possibly for the rest of their lives).

Other people may be able to gradually reduce their dosage and then stop taking them altogether if there is a marked improvement in symptoms.

Do not stop suddenly taking any prescribed medicines as this could trigger a relapse of your symptoms.

If a person's psychotic episodes are severe, they may need to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital for treatment.

What to do if you're experiencing psychosis

The NHS recommends seeing a GP immediately if you're experiencing symptoms of psychosis.

It's important psychosis is treated as soon as possible, as early treatment can be more effective.

The GP will likely refer you to a mental health specialist for further assessment and treatment.

If you are concerned about someone you know experiencing a psychotic episode which is severe enough to require urgent treatment you can

  • take them to the nearest A&E, if they agree

  • call their GP or local out-of-hours GP

  • call 999 and ask for an ambulance

A number of mental health helplines are also available that can offer expert advice.

Additional reporting PA.

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