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Psychotic Disorders: What You Need to Know

Psychotic Disorders 101

Psychotic disorders, also known as psychosis, are a general class of disorders that involve a break with reality usually in the form of delusions (a persistent altered reality, not necessarily in the colloquial understanding). Psychosis involves disruptions to a person’s normal way of perceiving the world and alters it to create sounds, figures, and events that do not exist outside of one’s mind. Psychotic behavior can lead to negative consequences for oneself or, in extreme cases, for others. A psychotic break also makes it difficult to distinguish between reality and illusion, creating a sense of paranoia within a patient. Psychotic disorders are often very tough to deal with as they involve essentially changing one’s view of their entire life. Doing such a thing can be incredibly traumatic and almost literally life-changing. Similar to uprooting one’s life, treating psychotic disorders can be an immense challenge that requires the support of one’s friends, family, and community.

There are various signs that are indicative of possible psychotic disorders. Possible signs are (NIMH):

  • Worrisome drop in grades

  • Poor job performance

  • Paranoia

  • Unease around others

  • Unusual ideas

  • These are ideas that are considered “unusual” based on the normal behavior of the patient

  • Strange feelings, or lack of feelings

  • Decline in personal hygiene

  • Confusing reality and fantasy

  • Confused and/or troubled speech

  • Jittery and nervous behavior

It is important to note that those with psychosis have several of these symptoms. Any one of these symptoms is not directly indicative of psychosis, but a combination of the above symptoms can indicate increased chances of psychotic disorders.

There are a variety of psychotic disorders, although people can face psychosis alone as a symptom. Some common psychotic disorders are schizophrenia (for more information about schizophrenia, refer to our article here), schizoaffective disorder, brief psychotic disorder, delusional disorder, substance-induced psychotic disorder, and many more. The symptoms of these disorders are similar in many ways. However, they vary in the length of the illness and the cause of the illness.

Approximately 1% of the population is diagnosed with psychotic disorders (Psych Guides). These conditions are mostly found in people in their late teens to people in the mid-thirties. However, the illness affects men and women equally and is not confined to certain demographics. The illness can also be affected by genetics, as those with psychotic disorders within the family can experience increased chances of having psychotic disorders. Psychotic disorders can also be acquired through complications during birth, brain injuries, and exposure to certain chemicals.

Psychotic disorders are believed to be caused at least in part by the lack of certain neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that are released in the brain to inspire a certain action. The neurotransmitter that contributes to the existence of psychotic disorders is glutamate. Doctors believe that either a lack or an excess of glutamate can cause schizophrenia and other related psychotic disorders. In addition, the neurotransmitter gamma-butyric acid, also known as GABA, is implicated in the existence of psychotic disorders in the brain.

There are various treatments for psychotic disorders. One can take antipsychotic drugs, such as chlorpromazine (Thorazine), haloperidol (Haldol), loxapine (Loxitane), and others. Psychotherapy may also be used to treat psychotic disorders. Usually, psychiatrists treat psychotic disorders with a combination of counseling and medication. Psychotic disorder patients tend to focus on suppressing hallucinations and delusions for a more stable mindset, but each individual understands their personal needs best.

Psychotic disorders are part of a complex category of disorders that can be very traumatic for those who experience psychosis and similar symptoms on a daily basis. Contrary to popular misconceptions, psychotic disorders don’t imply that someone is violent. When we criminalize those with mental illness, we de-legitimize and dismiss the pain and isolation they may feel.

Unsurprisingly, family and community support is critical for recovery and healing for those living with psychotic disorders. Through no fault of their own, people are going through immense amounts of stress and emotional pain day by day. Treating people with psychosis with understanding as well as empathy and patience can improve the quality of life they live. To know that you are accepted in society is a relieving feeling, which can greatly improve your surroundings. A small act of kindness towards people suffering can help ensure that they are not always alone or afraid. Small acts can have enormous consequences, especially to a troubled mind. One should never underestimate the power of words and, of course, lending support by example.

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