Any mental health condition that causes psychosis or a disrupted state of mind that gives rise to a temporary and disorienting break from reality is considered a psychotic disorder.
Schizophrenia is the most widely recognized psychotic disorder, but psychosis can also occur with bipolar disorder, major depression, and certain substance use disorders. Some women even experience postpartum psychosis following childbirth.
A psychotic episode can be alarming for the person who experiences it and those who watch it unfold. Knowing about the warning signs of psychosis — including incongruous, out-of-place emotions — can put you in a better position to seek timely intervention and care.
Here, our seasoned team of mental health experts at EXIS Recovery Inc. explores the link between strong, inappropriate emotions (also known as inappropriate affect) and psychotic episodes and explains why prompt treatment is so important.
Understanding psychotic disorders
The term psychotic disorder applies to any mental health condition that features psychosis as a symptom. A psychotic episode is a state of abnormal thinking and awareness that leads to a break from reality. Someone in the throes of psychosis may experience delusions (fixed, false beliefs), hallucinations (false perceptions), or both.
Mental health conditions which can cause a person to lose touch with reality include:
- Schizophrenia: a complex, long-term mental illness with repeated psychotic episodes
- Schizoaffective disorder: combined symptoms of schizophrenia and a mood disorder (i.e., depression, bipolar disorder)
- Schizophreniform disorder: short-term schizophrenia that lasts one to six months
- Brief psychotic disorder: causes sudden, short-term psychosis, usually triggered by a stressful event like the death of a loved one
- Delusional disorder: previously known as a paranoid personality disorder, this condition features a delusion involving a premise that could be real but isn’t (i.e., having a disease, being followed)
Psychosis can also be a symptom of substance abuse or withdrawal, trauma, extreme sleep deprivation, brain tumors, stroke, and other medical conditions. When the first episode of psychosis occurs during emerging adulthood (between 16 and 35 years of age), it’s usually an indication of a developing psychotic disorder.
Inappropriate emotions and psychosis
When psychosis disturbs a person’s thoughts and perceptions, it can be tough to tell the difference between what’s real and what’s not. This distortion seeps into every level of functioning, from cognition and speech to emotion and behavior.
During a psychotic episode, words and ideas can lose meaning or take on meanings that don’t ordinarily make sense. This impaired state of cognition can cause:
- Very rapid or slow speech
- Speaking in muddled sentences
- Using incorrect or made-up words
- Frequent change of topics
Similarly, psychosis can cause distortion and upheaval of a person’s emotions, seemingly for no apparent reason. This drastic change may elicit strong emotions, inappropriate emotions, or no emotion at all. A psychosis-distorted emotional state can cause:
- Crying for no evident reason
- Laughing at unsuitable times
- Intense, unprovoked anger
- Feeling upset without cause
- Uncharacteristic mood swings
- Unexpected lack of emotion
Psychosis can also lead to feeling isolated from the world, detached from one’s body, and distanced from one’s thoughts. Muddled cognition and warped emotions can trigger behavioral changes, too, including:
- Socially withdrawal
- Spending a lot of time alone
- Suspiciousness of others
- Diminished personal hygiene
- Poor work or school performance
- Absence of usual motivation
- Difficulty functioning overall
Along with hallucinations and delusions that seem perfectly genuine and valid, psychosis triggers a strong sense of confusion and disorientation brought on by the awareness that others don’t seem to be living in the same reality.
In fact, many people who experience inappropriate affect recognize that their feelings and reactions don’t match the reality of the situation. While each person goes through psychosis differently, most agree that psychotic episodes feel frightening and disconcerting.
Worried about psychosis? We can help
If you or a loved one has been experiencing strong, inappropriate emotions — especially if combined with one or more of the psychosis-related cognitive, speech, or behavioral symptoms described above — give us a call as soon as possible.
With acute psychotic episodes as well as long-term psychotic disorders, timely intervention and care are key to attaining optimal treatment outcomes. By combining evidence-based practices with a multidisciplinary, coordinated care approach, we can help you or your loved one successfully transition from acute psychosis to a sustainable recovery.
Call 541-408-4169 to reach EXIS Recovery, Inc. in West Los Angeles, California, today, or click online to schedule a visit with one of our trusted mental health experts any time.