Psychotic Disorder (A guide)

This article is a detailed overview of psychotic disorder and discusses some pertinent aspects related to this disorder.

Also, this article reveals possible symptoms, diagnostic aspects and possible treatments that offer insight into this problem.

Severe mental disorders that cause abnormal perception or thinking are considered as psychotic disorders.

This condition distorts a person’s mental ability and his sense of reality.

These are a group of disorders that causes a patient to see and hear things that don’t exist and make it hard for them to believe what’s real and what isn’t. it is a symptom of severe mental illness or disorder.

Types of psychotic disorders:

There are different types of psychotic disorders some of which are:


It is one of the most common psychotic disorders.

This disorder is characterized by delusions and hallucinations i.e. a person may hear or see things that aren’t real.

This condition lasts longer than 6 months.

Schizoaffective disorder:

It is a type of mental disorder that is primarily characterized by schizophrenic symptoms (delusions and hallucinations) followed by mood disorder symptoms such as mania and depression.

Depression leads to a feeling of sadness or worthlessness and loss of interest in daily activities.

Whereas mania is characterized is marked by periods of great excitement or euphoria and racing thoughts.

Brief psychotic disorder:

In this disorder any possible triggers like extreme stress due to accident or death of a loved one causes a person to experience symptoms of psychosis-like hallucinations and delusions.

Sometimes this condition gets triggered by no obvious cause.

Symptoms of this disorder usually go away within a month but brief psychotic disorder might turn into schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder in some people.

Delusional disorder:

The delusional disorder can be defined as a belief in false realities.

Patients start to make situations that might relate to real life but aren’t true.

For instance, thinking that a friend is plotting to kill them or they are diagnosed with some incurable disease.

These types of delusions may last for at least a month.

Substance-induced psychotic disorder:

Prolonged use of certain drugs like taking an overdose of medications or sudden withdrawal from drugs directly triggers the psychotic episodes which are included in substance-induced psychotic disorder also known as stimulant psychosis.

Drugs which trigger it are:

  • Alcohol, Cocaine, LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide), a hallucinogenic drug,
  • Amphetamines; used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) but is also a highly addictive drug,
  • Marijuana (Cannabis) also called a weed, ganga, pot, etc.
  • Opioids, sometimes called narcotics are used as pain relievers. Abuse of opioids may trigger psychosis.
  • sedatives are also known as tranquilizers or depressants that slow down brain activity giving a calming effect and can also induce sleep.

Disorder due to a medical condition:

When psychotic symptoms occur alongside another medical condition or illness such as head injury, CNS tumors and infections, stroke migraine and various endocrine disorders, then this kind of condition comes under psychotic disorders due to another medical condition.

Treatment of medical condition often helps to reduce the severity of psychotic symptoms however specific psychotic treatment might be necessary for some patients.

Types of illnesses which lead to psychosis include:

  • Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia
  • Brain tumor
  • HIV or AIDS
  • Hypoglycemia i.e. low blood sugar
  • Lupus (a long term autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks its tissues and organs)
  • Parkinson’s disease.

Symptoms of Psychotic Disorders:

  • Hallucinations (defined as sensory perception in the absence of outside stimuli. It refers to seeing, hearing, feeling or smelling something that isn’t present in reality. A hallucinating person might hear or see someone who is not there in reality). 
  • Delusions (these are characterized when a person strongly believes in something or about something which is contradicted by reality or which can’t be normally considered true). 
  • Facing difficulty in concentrating and completing works or tasks or lack of energy and motivation,
  • Not feeling interested in maintaining personal hygiene or experiencing Social withdrawal that may result in feelings of loneliness,
  • Insomnia( not sleeping properly) or sleeping too much,
  • Suspiciousness or suicidal thoughts or actions,
  • Inappropriate emotional responses like laughing out of context and crying without any particular reason,
  • Disorganized or erratic way of speech like jumping from one topic to the next and jumbling of words.

Causes of psychotic disorders:

Many factors play a role in causing psychotic disorder however sometimes the exact cause is hard to recognize.

The factors which set off psychosis may include:

Biological factors: imbalance of certain hormones in the brain sometimes causes the patient to become sensitive or overproduce excessive amount of a chemical called dopamine which can lead to schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders

Genetic factors:   Sometimes psychotic disorders may partly be inherited which means that they tend to run in the family.

Environmental factors: drug abuse, stress or major life events and changes like some accidents, trauma, loss of loved ones, assault or terrible past happenings can play a significant role in triggering psychosis in a person.

People in their late teens to early thirties are commonly affected.

Approximately 1 % of the total population suffers from a psychotic disorder which includes men and women equally.

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Diagnosis of the psychotic disorder:

For diagnosis, a doctor can demand a complete medical history and psychiatric history before performing any possible physical exam.

A blood test might be required to find the traces of any drug abuse like alcohol or LSD.

Sometimes brain imaging such as MRI scans is also conducted to rule out physical illness.

In the case of no physical reasons as the cause or disorder, the patient may be referred to a psychiatrist or psychologist by the doctor.

Specifically designed interview and assessment tools enable these mental health professionals to confirm whether the patient has any psychotic disorder or not.


Brief psychotic disorders are preferably treated in the community rather than in a hospital.

A combination of medications and psychotherapy is the best possible treatment for most of the psychotic disorders.

Medication therapy: 

Antipsychotics are known to be the main type of drugs prescribed by doctors to treat psychotic disorders.

They help as an effective management aid in most of the troubling symptoms of psychotic disorders such as hallucinations and delusions or thinking disorders rather than being an absolute cure for the problem.

Antipsychotic drugs include; Chlorpromazine (Thorazine), Fluphenazine (Prolixin), Haloperidol (Haldol), Laxapine (Loxitane), Perphenazine (trillion) and Thioridazine (Mellaril).

Some of the newer atypical antipsychotics include; Aripiprazole (abilify), Asenapine (saphari), Clozapine (vraylar) etc.

Newer ones having fewer or more tolerable side effects than the older ones are most often prescribed by the doctors as an antipsychotic drug therapy treatment.

Some of these drugs are available by injection and are only needed to be taken once or twice a month.

Though antipsychotic drugs help to reduce the psychotic symptoms, these drugs come with risks along with their benefits.

Patients and their family members should be well informed about the possible side-effects of the drugs and should properly communicate with healthcare providers about the doses and potential side effects. 

Psychotherapy approach:

It is defined as a general term for treating mental health problems by seeking the help of psychiatrists, psychologist or other mental health providers.

It is also called talk therapy in which a patient talks with the psychologist about their issues.

This approach or practice helps to cure people with a variety of mental illnesses and emotional difficulties.

This therapy refers to a range of treatments that helps with mental health problems, emotional challenges, or some psychiatric disorders.

Its main aim is to enable a patient or a client to understand and sort out their feelings and helps them to know what makes them feel sad, happy, depressed, anxious or positive about things.

This endows them to cope with hard situations more adaptively and acceptably.

A range of problems from depression and low self-esteem to addiction and family disputes can be dealt with easily with psychotherapy.

Psychotherapy along with medication therapy can play a significant role in treating a variety of mental disorders or psychotic disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Recovery and Outlook:

The response of every patient being treated for psychiatric disorder may be different.

In some cases, improvement can be seen to be rapid, while others may take weeks or months to get rid of their problems.

Treatment for some patients can be extended for longer periods.

Indefinite medication can be prescribed to patients who are suffering from recurrent episodes of severe psychosis.

Doses of medication are minimized to very low range to prevent the side effects in such cases.

An outlook of a patient with a psychotic disorder: The outlook of a patient depends upon the type of disorder and the person who is suffering.

Almost all of these disorders are treatable and most patients show rapid recovery along with treatment and follow up care.

Psychotic disorders aren’t preventable as the exact cause isn’t known in almost all of the cases.

However, treating symptoms helps get healthy mental health sooner.

Seeking medical or personal help enables a person to better his life and relationships. 

Some Helpful Resources

  1. Group Therapy for Voice Hearers: Insights and Perspectives
  2. Understanding Mental Illness: A Comprehensive Guide to Mental Health Disorders for Family and Friends
  3. Mental Health: Personalities: Personality Disorders, Mental Disorders & Psychotic Disorders
  4. Healing the Distress of Psychosis: Listening with Psychotic Ears
  5. Schizophrenia and Other Psychotic Disorders


Psychotic disorders are disorders that affect the mental health of a person.

Psychosis is a condition in which a person’s thoughts and perceptions are disturbed and it makes them unable to distinguish between what is real and what isn’t. symptoms of psychosis include hallucinations, delusions, incoherent speech, nonsense behavior, etc. sometimes experiencing psychotic episodes might be frightening causing the patient to hurt themselves or someone else as they lose control over their actions finding it difficult believe someone. 

Psychotic episodes might lead to anxiety, depression, social withdrawal and lack of motivation and sleeping problems.

Psychosis can be caused by biological or environmental problems.

Treatment of psychotic disorder includes the use of medicine or psychotherapy.

In some cases, people tend to recover from disorder earlier responding positively to the treatment.

While some patients like schizophrenic patients may have to stay on medications for life.

Early diagnosis and treatment appropriate for the disorders make it possible to recover from the disorder.

Many patients who receive early treatment never have to face another psychotic episode in their life.

For other people being able to live life fully and leading a productive life means recovery even if they face psychotic symptoms sometimes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What are the first signs of psychosis?

The first few signs and symptoms are difficulty concentrating, depressed mood, sleeping too much or not enough, anxiety and suspiciousness.

Q2. Can psychotic disorders be cured?

There is no cure, but there are many treatments available, and with those treatments, an individual might get better

Q3. Is a psychotic person dangerous?

If left untreated, it can be challenging for people experiencing psychotic disorder to take good care, and they might self harm themselves, or could cause other illnesses to go untreated. 

This question can be answered with different perspectives. Sometimes it is considered to be a myth to call someone with psychotic disorder dangerous.

However, some points of view suggest that it depends upon the level of illness of a psychotic patient whether he/she is dangerous or not. 

If the symptoms are well managed and the patiently shows improvement then they shouldn’t be called psycho or dangerous as calling them names might trigger some feelings resulting in psychotic episodes worsening the condition of the patient.

However, sometimes a psychotic disorder becomes incurable and makes it hard to manage the symptoms, in these cases the patient must be dealt with extra care and being and being cautious becomes necessary around them.

Q4. How do you deal with a psychotic person?

The best way to deal with them is to listen to them non judgmentally, don’t panic or hesitate and don’t threaten them.

It might take a little longer than usual, but they will eventually start trusting you and open up to you  

Q5. Can you live a healthy life with psychosis?

They may have a one-off episode, or it may be a part of an ongoing illness, but they can lead a healthy life by taking effective therapies and treatments. 

Q6. How can you tell if someone is psychotic?

We can tell by the way they react, all the possible symptoms are observed. 


  1. Psychotic Disorders: General Guide
  2. What is Psychotic Disorder?
  3. Psychotic Disorders Symptoms, Causes and Treatments
  4. What is Psychosis?
  5. Psychotic Disorders

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