Entry into the psychotic state is merely the end result of a slow process of transformation: the alterations in the perceptual apparatus and in the consciousness of the self that take place silently over the course of time eventually become visible even to an outside observer. Once the psychotic episode is over, it leaves scars or seedbeds of pathology that are likely to give rise to further instances of decompensation. Psychosis arises long before the appearance of unequivocal clinical manifestations such as hallucinations and delusions. The process tends to be unstoppable, involving changes in the perception of the self and of individual identity; phenomena affecting visual or auditory perception or thought are secondary to the alteration of the self. The psychotic transformation can be divided into three stages: initial, central, and final. Psychotic functioning is in dynamic equilibrium with its non-psychotic counterpart, but the system tends to become unbalanced with a bias towards the former.