Psychotic disorders are a group of serious illnesses that affect the mind. These illnesses alter a person’s ability to think clearly, make good judgments, respond emotionally, communicate effectively, understand reality, and behave appropriately. When symptoms are severe, people with psychotic disorders have difficulty staying in touch with reality and often are unable to meet the ordinary demands of daily life. However, even the most severe psychotic disorders usually are treatable.
There are different types of psychotic disorders, including:
- Schizophrenia –People with this illness have changes in behavior and other symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations, that last longer than six months, usually with a decline in work, school, and social functioning.
- Schizoaffective disorder – This illness causes individuals to have symptoms of both schizophrenia and a mood disorder, such as depression or bipolar disorder.
- Schizophreniform disorder – People with this illness have symptoms of schizophrenia, but the symptoms last more than one month but less than six months.
- Brief psychotic disorder – People with this illness have sudden, short periods of psychotic behavior, often in response to a very stressful event, such as a death in the family. Recovery is often quick, usually less than a month.
- Delusional disorder – People with this illness have delusions involving real-life situations that could be true, such as being followed, being conspired against or having a disease. These delusions persist for at least one month.
- Shared psychotic disorder – This illness occurs when a person develops delusions in the context of a relationship with another person who already has his or her own delusion(s).
- Substance-induced psychotic disorder – This condition is caused by the use of or withdrawal from some substances, such as alcohol and crack cocaine, that may cause hallucinations, delusions, or confused speech.
- Psychotic disorder due to a medical condition – Hallucinations, delusions, or other symptoms may be the result of another illness that affects brain function, such as a head injury or brain tumor.
- Paraphrenia – This is a type of schizophrenia that starts late in life and occurs in the elderly population.
About 1% of the population worldwide suffers from psychotic disorders. These disorders most often first appear when a person is in his or her late teens, 20s or 30s. They tend to affect men and women about equally.
Most psychotic disorders are treated with a combination of medications and psychotherapy and are treated as outpatients. However, people with particularly severe symptoms, those in danger of hurting themselves or others, or those unable to care for themselves because of their illness, may require hospitalization to stabilize their condition.