A “psychotic disorder” is an umbrella term to describe multiple types of mental health conditions that involve a phenomenon called psychosis.
Psychosis itself is characterized by an impaired relationship with reality, often including confusion, hallucinations, and delusions.
It’s estimated that 3 in every 100 people will experience psychosis at some point during their lives.
It’s important to note that psychosis is not present in all mental health disorders, and the symptoms vary greatly by individual.
The term “psychotic disorder” tends to be used by some mental health professionals, but isn’t always socially acceptable because of stigmas attached to it.
Psychosis is related to multiple types of mental health disorders. Below are the most commonly associated conditions.
Schizophrenia is one of the most common types of psychotic disorders, and often has a genetic component. It can cause hallucinations seeing or hearing things that don’t exist. Delusions are also possible, where you might believe things that are untrue.
Schizoaffective disorder is a condition where you experience both psychosis and a mood disorder.
It’s most notable for its mood disorder traits, such as depression and bipolar disorder. It can also cause hallucinations, paranoia, and delusions.
Genetics and brain chemical changes are both thought to be possible causes of this mental health disorder.
Bipolar disorder is a type of mood disorder that’s often characterized by cyclic changes between extreme highs (mania) and lows (depression).
Symptoms of psychosis may occur during manic episodes, where you might experience a combination of hallucinations and delusions.
It’s estimated that around 10 percent of people with mental health disorders have a psychomotor syndrome called catatonia. While once considered a subtype of schizophrenia, catatonia is now recognized as its own mental illness.
This condition can cause psychosis as well as impaired motor skills and speech.
Substance use disorder
Misusing drugs or alcohol is strongly related to the development of mental illness later in life.
It’s thought that people in their early 20s with substance use issues may be especially vulnerable to the development of psychosis, since their brains are still developing at this stage of life.
Sometimes psychosis may stem from depression, neurological disorders, and traumatic events.
In other cases, certain aspects of psychosis may cause standalone symptoms, such as the case with delusional disorders.
The symptoms of psychosis can vary between mental health disorders, but below are some possible signs:
- Concentration difficulties
- Brain fog
- Increased anxiety or agitation
- Loss of interest or joy in your normal activities
- Increased or decreased appetite
- Hallucinations, where you hear or see things that seem real to you
- Social withdrawal
- Neglected personal hygiene
- Holding strong beliefs that aren’t actually true
- Paranoia over people and situations around you
There’s no one cause of psychosis. Genetics and brain chemical changes are strong links. Traumatic events, substance use, and underlying health conditions can sometimes lead to changes in the way your brain works.
Past research has indicated that dopamine, serotonin, and glutamate disruptions in the brain may cause certain psychotic disorders. However, there’s not enough evidence to associate any one neurotransmitter disruption with psychosis.
Psychotic disorders are most effectively treated with a combination of medications and therapies. A psychiatrist can help you determine what your needs are based on the severity of your condition.
Antipsychotic medications are among the first lines of treatment for psychosis. These help to block serotonin or dopamine receptors in your brain to prevent hallucinations and delusions.
However, antipsychotics may not be appropriate for substance use-related psychosis. This largely depends on the substance used.
Low-dose benzodiazepines, a class of tranquilizers, may work best for catatonia. Your doctor may also recommend electroconvulsive therapy in some cases. If you have a mood disorder, your doctor may also recommend antidepressants. These help to improve depression-related symptoms, such as sadness and hopelessness.
Different forms of therapy are used in the treatment of psychosis:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may be particularly helpful by changing the thought patterns that can lead to delusions and hallucinations.
- Individual talk therapy may also help you work through your feelings, which can be useful in treating instances of trauma.
- Psychoanalytic therapy can have a significant impact on the functioning of people with psychosis.
- Some people also find group or family therapies helpful in psychosis management.
- Social rehabilitation can be especially helpful for loved ones who have isolated themselves due to their symptoms.
Can home remedies help?
While home remedies continue to be a trending topic in all aspects of health, it’s important not to trade in proven medications and therapies for natural versions.
At the same time, lifestyle measures will certainly help your overall mental health, including a healthy diet and regular exercise. It’s important to discuss the use of any herbs or supplements with your doctor. This includes fish oil.
While there’s some clinical evidence that shows the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil may support brain health and subsequent mental illnesses, more research needs to be done to conclude whether taking fish oil and how much can effectively treat mental health disorders.
Not all studies support the use of omega-3 fatty acids for psychosis and other mental health conditions.
Psychosis tends to first develop during the adolescent years. It sometimes shows up during early adulthood, too.
If you have a family history of mental health disorders with psychosis, it’s important to pay special attention to the possibility of symptoms developing in your children. Hallucinations are common in children experiencing psychosis.
Another early sign is that your child suddenly loses interest in the activities they usually enjoy. They might also withdraw from their friend groups and have difficulties with school.
Treatment for psychosis in children focuses more on therapies than medications. CBT, for example, may help correct thinking patterns early on in an effort to prevent hallucinations and delusions.
Research also suggests that managing stress may help this age group.
Antipsychotic medications may be used as a last resort, but at low doses only. Side effects of these drugs in children may include:
- Blurry vision
- Weight gain
Given the complexity of psychosis, it’s not advised to self-diagnose and treat it on your own. You can, however, make note of your symptoms to determine when it’s time to seek help from a psychiatrist or other mental health professional.
If you suspect symptoms of psychosis, and if these are severe enough to interfere with your daily life, consider seeking professional advice. Your primary care doctor is a starting point for recommendations.
You can also search for mental health providers via your insurance company, or find a therapist in your area here.
If you or a loved one is struggling with substance misuse, you may also consider finding help through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
If you’re supporting a friend or family member struggling with psychosis, it’s important to learn coping mechanisms early on so that you can be at your best.
Taking care of yourself is paramount, and you’ll also want to take time to manage stress every day.
You can also help by:
- Learning everything you can about your loved one’s condition
- Making sure your loved one takes all their medications and goes to therapy, as directed
- Reducing triggering situations that can worsen your loved one’s symptoms
- Listening to what your loved one is going through, without judgment
- Avoiding harmful situations, such as drinking and illicit drug use
You might also find it helpful to connect with other families who may be going through similar situations.
Psychosis can occur in schizophrenia and other mental health disorders.
While psychosis can leave you or your loved ones feeling uncertain, it is treatable especially when detected early. Treatment will consist of a combination of medications, therapies, and lifestyle changes.
It’s also important for loved ones to be patient and supportive of family and friends struggling with mental health disorders. If you suspect that mental illness is interfering with reality, see a mental health professional for an evaluation.