Psychotic disorders are mental disorders in which a person’s personality is severely confused and they lose touch with reality. When a psychotic episode occurs, a person becomes unsure about what is real and what isn’t, and usually experiences hallucinations, delusions, uncharacteristic behavior, chaotic speech and incoherency. A person behaving in this manner is often referred to as being schizophrenic.
A hallucination is an internal sensory perception that isn’t actually present and can be either visual or auditory. Smelling odors or having a funny taste in the mouth are other hallucinations that may occur. A delusion is defined as a false, inaccurate belief that a person holds on to. A grandiose delusion occurs when a person believes that their life is out of proportion as compared to what is really true. For example, a patient may believe that she is God or Jesus Christ. A persecutory delusion occurs when a person believes that there is a conspiracy amongst others to attack, punish or harass him. Although these hallucinations and delusions appear odd to others, they are very real to the person with the disorder.
The most common psychotic disorder is schizophrenia. Patients with this condition experience changes in behavior, delusions and hallucinations that last longer than six months. Those diagnosed with this type of disorder often show a decline in social function, as well as school and work.
Patients with schizoaffective disorder have symptoms of both a mood disorder, such as depression and schizophrenia.
When a patient has only short, sudden episodes of psychotic behavior, the condition is diagnosed as brief psychotic disorder. These episodes are typically a response to a stressful situation and usually last less than a month.
When a patient with schizophrenia has symptoms that last fewer than six months are diagnosed with schizophreniform disorder.
Patients that have false, fixed beliefs involving real-life situations that could be true, such as having a disease or being conspired against, are diagnosed with delusional disorder. These delusions persist for at least one month.
Sometimes, withdrawal from substances like methamphetamines and alcohol cause delusions and hallucinations. This is known as substance-induced psychotic disorder.
When psychotic disorder symptoms are a result of illnesses that affect the function of the brain, such as a brain tumor, the patient is diagnosed with psychotic disorder due to a medical condition.
Approximately 1 percent of the population suffers from a psychotic disorder. These conditions are most commonly found in people in their late teens to early thirties and affects men and women equally. Like many other mental disorders, psychotic disorders are often genetic. People who have a family member with this type of disorder are more likely to develop it than those who do not have a family history of it. It is also believed that these disorders are related to the hyperactivity of chemicals in the brain that are vital to normal functioning. Additionally, those who experienced brain injury during fetal development or childhood are at a higher risk of developing the condition.
If the symptoms of a psychotic disorder appear in an individual, the doctor will conduct a physical exam as well as gather medical history. Once physical reasons for the abnormal behaviors are ruled out, the doctor will then refer the patient to a psychiatrist. Dr. Kerryn Armstrong has a specific set of tools to properly diagnose a psychotic disorder, and has vast experience treating psychotic disorders in children and adults.
The two main forms of treatment for psychotic disorders are medication and psychotherapy. The signature medications to treat psychotic disorders are antipsychotics. These medications aid in managing the symptoms of the disease like the hallucinations and delusions. Some examples of antipsychotics are pimozide, haloperidol, chlorpromazine and amisulpride. Depending on how each individual is affected by the medications, it may be necessary for the doctor to prescribe more than one consecutively until the proper medication is found that meets the required results.
Psychotherapy for psychotic disorders may include individual sessions, family sessions and support groups. While most patients are treated as outpatients, in severe cases, such as when the physical well-being is in danger, hospitalization may be necessary to stabilize the patient’s condition.
In addition to medication and psychotherapy, self-help can also aid in successfully managing living with psychotic disorders. It is important that the patient learn how to cope when these episodes occur and learn how to find help on treating someone with psychosis. Studying and learning as much as possible about the specific disorder is vital to managing a healthy, happy, fulfilling life.