The term “psychotic disorder” describes the various mental health conditions that can trigger psychosis, or a disrupted state of mind that causes a temporary and disorienting break from reality.
Psychosis can be frightening for the person who goes through it and for those who witness it. Perhaps that’s why psychotic disorders tend to be surrounded by more misunderstandings and misconceptions than most other mental illnesses.
Here at EXIS Recovery Inc. in West Los Angeles, California, we’re committed to exposing — and correcting — the myths that obscure psychosis, stigmatize psychotic disorders, and often keep people from getting the care they need to move forward.
Let’s shed some light on five common misbeliefs about psychotic disorders and psychosis:
Myth 1: People affected by psychosis are “crazy”
Fact: During a psychotic episode, a person experiences false perceptions (hallucinations) and false beliefs (delusions) that make it very hard for them to separate what actually exists from what exists only in their mind.
Unfortunately, Hollywood and the media routinely depict people with psychotic disorders as crazy, deranged, or insane. But psychosis doesn’t make someone lose their mind completely; it causes them to lose touch with reality temporarily.
Psychosis can be induced by an infection or trauma in the brain; it can also be triggered by heavy alcohol use, postpartum changes, or a chronic mental illness like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Like other diagnosable health problems, psychosis and psychotic disorders can be treated and managed effectively.
Myth 2: Psychosis makes people violent or dangerous
Fact: Psychotic symptoms can cause a person to behave strangely as they struggle to process or understand the world they’re experiencing — especially when they notice that others don’t see, hear, or believe the same things they do.
It can be scary to witness someone acting strangely, especially when they seem disconnected from reality. But that doesn’t mean, as many people fear, that the person will become aggressive, violent, dangerous, or otherwise unpredictable.
People who are in the midst of a psychotic episode often feel frightened or confused, and they’re more likely to become withdrawn and harm themselves than lash out and harm someone else. In fact, people with severe mental health conditions like a psychotic disorder are far more likely to be victims of violent crime than perpetrators.
Myth 3: Psychotic disorders appear out of the blue
Fact: Many people think that psychotic disorders arise suddenly and without warning. While it’s true that psychotic symptoms can come on quickly when they’re a product of an acute health problem like a stroke, psychosis that’s triggered by a psychotic disorder almost never appears out of nowhere.
Many people are initially diagnosed with a psychotic disorder following first-episode psychosis (FEP), but they typically experience a range of continuing and progressive symptoms in the months leading up to this dramatic moment.
Early warning signs include gradual changes in a person’s thoughts, feelings, or behaviors that can make it difficult for them to concentrate, remember simple things, or understand others. This state of being often gives rise to irritability, withdrawal, and paranoid thinking.
Myth 4: Psychosis means having multiple personalities
One of the most common myths surrounding psychosis — particularly schizophrenia — is that it’s the same as having a split personality. Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders may cause a split from reality, but they don’t alter someone’s personality or cause them to develop several fragmented identities.
A totally different but equally misunderstood mental illness called dissociative identity disorder (DID) is what gives rise to two or more distinct personalities within a single person. Someone with DID may randomly switch from one personality to another, changing their mannerisms, behavior, and voice as they do.
While DID does cause a distancing from reality, it doesn’t involve or trigger psychosis. Similarly, psychosis doesn’t involve or cause DID. When someone experiences psychosis, they react to their altered reality in a way that’s consistent with their one personality; new personalities don’t emerge to cope with that experience.
Myth 5: Psychotic disorders prevent normal, fulfilling lives
Fact: Like people affected by other mental illnesses, people with psychotic disorders experience varying degrees of severity and impact when it comes to symptoms and life circumstances.
While it may be impossible to maintain a normal life despite a psychotic disorder, there are effective, evidence-based treatments that can help restore mental health and provide a return to normalcy. A timely diagnosis and individualized care are often all it takes to help someone reduce the frequency and severity of their psychotic episodes — or prevent them altogether.
If you or someone you love is struggling with a psychotic disorder, the team at EXIS Recovery can help. Call 424-244-3513 to reach our West Los Angeles office today, or click online to schedule a visit with one of our experienced mental health experts any time.