Brief Psychotic Disorder

GinaMarie Guarino, LMHC

Brief Psychotic Disorder

Brief psychotic disorder is a disorder in which a person suffers from a psychotic episode, or psychosis. The term ‘psychosis’ refers to an incident in which a person loses touch with reality.

A person who suffers from psychosis will suffer from alarming symptoms that are not in sync with reality. Some examples include:

  • Paranoia
  • Hearing voices
  • Seeing things that are not really there
  • Developing strange and untrue beliefs that do not reflect one’s religion or spirituality.

A person who is suffering from a psychotic episode will not be able to tell the difference between what is real and what is not real. This will likely cause general distress for the affected person.

A person who is out of touch with reality will go through periods of fear, disorientation, and complete disconnect from the present environment.

Symptoms of Brief Psychotic Disorder

A person can suffer from brief psychotic disorder at any age, though it is most common in ages 12 and above. Symptoms of brief psychotic disorder will only last up to one month. If the psychotic symptoms persist for longer than one month, then the affected person is suffering from a different mental health disorder that causes psychosis.

Symptoms of brief psychotic disorder include:

  • Depressed mood
  • Anxiety and general distress
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Catatonia
  • Change in appetite
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Delusions
  • Erratic and strange behaviors
  • Rapid decline in academic or career performance
  • Odd or eccentric ideas and beliefs
  • Incoherent speech
  • Mood swings
  • Violent or aggressive behavior
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Decline in personal hygiene
  • Suicidal or homicidal ideation

Causes and Risk Factors of Brief Psychotic Disorder

There could be different reasons why a person develops brief psychotic disorder. The cause of a psychotic episode will depend on the affected person’s unique situation.

Some circumstances and situations that may cause a person to suffer from brief psychotic disorder include:

  • Postpartum
  • Severe depression
  • Trauma
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Stroke
  • Substance use
  • Medical issues

There are risk factors associated with the onset of brief psychotic disorder. These risk factors increase a person’s risk of suffering from brief psychotic disorder.

Risk factors of brief psychotic disorder include:

  • Genetics
  • Family history of mental illness
  • Environmental factors (neglect, abuse, and violence or chaos in the home or environment)
  • Suffering from other mental health disorders
  • High stress
  • Poor coping skills for stress

Treatment of Brief Psychotic Disorder

A person will typically only experience one psychotic episode, but sometimes a person may experience two or more. To ensure the safety of the patient, mental health professionals will closely monitor them for one year following an episode.

The patient will likely be prescribed antipsychotic medication under the supervision of a psychiatrist. They will also be referred to therapy, to work through underlying causes that may have triggered the psychotic episode.

Participating in therapy will significantly decrease the chances of experiencing a second episode. The approach for therapy is determined on a case-by-case basis. This is because there are several different underlying causes that may contribute to someone suffering from a psychotic episode.

Determination for the best therapeutic approach for the patient considers the following factors:

  • Previous history in therapy
  • Underlying causes of psychotic episode
  • Genetic factors that triggered onset
  • Substance use
  • Stress management skills
  • Co-occurring mental health disorders

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