Main content

Especially young adults and teenagers are most at risk of psychosis and of developing psychotic symptoms. People affected are most often between the ages 14–30.

For men, psychosis begins on average three years earlier compared to women. Women more often have a combination of psychotic symptoms and mood changes, such as depression. Men tend to show more combinations of psychotic symptoms and changes in motivation and cognition.

Known risk factors for psychosis are trauma, drug use (especially at a young age) and belonging to a minority group. Other risk factors are genetic factors (but these play a more modest role than was previously thought), a complex urban environment and severe life events.

Some people’s normal ability to imagine and interpret reality turns into psychosis more quickly.

This has to do with someone’s vulnerability to psychosis (susceptibility), as well as their capability to deal with the symptoms (their degree of resilience). If you have a high degree of susceptibility and low resilience, you have to learn how to balance those two again. You can learn to recognise your sensitivities and risk factors and to compensate for them by using your resilience.


Logo Jim van Os

Prof. dr. Jim van OsChair Division Neuroscience, Utrecht University Medical Centre. He is also Visiting Professor of Psychiatric Epidemiology at the Institute of Psychiatry in London. Jim works at the interface of ‘hard’ brain science, health services research, art and subjective experiences of people with ‘lived experience’ in mental healthcare. 

Jim has been appearing on the Thomson-Reuter Web of Science list of ‘most influential scientific minds of our time’ since 2014. In 2014 he published his book ‘Beyond DSM-5‘, and in 2016 the book ‘Good Mental Health Care’. 

Read more about psychosis: