Brief Psychotic Disorder

GinaMarie Guarino, LMHC

Condition updated on September 23rd, 2019

Brief Psychotic Disorder

Brief psychotic disorder is a disorder in which a person suffers from a psychotic episode. In many cases, it may also be referred to as psychosis, or a psychotic break.

The term ‘psychosis’ refers to an incident in which a person loses touch with reality. This typically happens as the result of severe stress or emotional distress. It can also occur as a result of drug use or withdrawal.

A person who suffers from psychosis loses touch with reality. As a result, they suffer from alarming symptoms. Symptoms that cause distress for the affected person and loved ones involve:

  • 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 cause them intense distress for the affected person. It will cause them to act erratically and impulsively.

A person who is out of touch with reality will go through periods of fear, disorientation. They will experience a loss of awareness of their present environment. They lose awareness of what is going on around them, and are not aware of their own behavior.

People who are suffering from psychosis will act out in alarming ways. They can cause harm to themselves and people around them.

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 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 psychotic episodes.

The symptoms of psychosis cause an affected person to lose touch with reality. When in a psychotic state, a person can potentially cause harm to themselves or others. For this reason, it is critical to seek help before one reaches a psychotic episode. It is also important to seek immediate care for a person who is in the middle of a psychotic episode.

Symptoms of brief psychotic disorder include:

  • Depressed mood
  • Anxiety and general distress
  • Insomnia and 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
  • Manic episodes

Causes 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.

Stressors that can contribute to brief psychotic disorder include:

  • High stress or poor stress management skills
  • Life events, phase of life issues, or grief
  • Mental health or physical health issues
  • Environmental stressors

Risk Factors of Brief Psychotic Disorder

There are circumstances that place a person at higher risk of suffering from brief psychotic disorder. Some circumstances and situations that may cause a person to suffer from psychosis include:

There are also predisposing risk factors associated with the onset of brief psychotic disorder. Predisposed risk factors are risk factors that a person may inherit or have little control over. These risk factors often exist from birth or childhood. They significantly increase a person’s risk of suffering from brief psychotic disorder.

Risk factors of brief psychotic disorder include:

  • Genetics
  • Family history of mental illness or addiction
  • Environmental factors (violence or chaos in the home or environment)
  • History of neglect, trauma or abuse
  • Suffering from other mental health disorders
  • Failure to learn effective stress management skills

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 their safety, an affected person will be closely monitored by a mental health professional for one year following an episode.

The affected person will likely be prescribed antipsychotic medication. They will also be 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. Each treatment plan for psychosis depends on the affected person’s unique needs.

Determination for the best therapeutic approach for the affected person 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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