Experts use the term “psychotic disorder” to describe mental illnesses characterized by psychosis, a disrupted state of mind that gives rise to hallucinations, delusions, and a temporary, disorienting break from reality. Psychotic episodes are a defining feature of several mental health conditions, including:
- Delusional disorder
- Brief psychotic disorder
- Schizoaffective disorder
- Schizophreniform disorder
- Schizotypal personality disorder
At EXIS Recovery Inc. in West Los Angeles, California, our seasoned team of mental health providers knows that whether it affects you or a loved one, being diagnosed with a psychotic disorder can feel almost as distressing as experiencing (or witnessing) a psychotic episode.
But we have encouraging news: As serious as psychotic disorders are, they’re also treatable — and getting expert care makes all the difference in maintaining symptom control and normal life function. Here, we provide some essential insight into psychotic disorders, including why treatment is so important.
Psychosis is a key characteristic of psychotic disorders
A psychotic disorder is any mental illness with psychotic episodes (psychosis) as a symptom. A psychotic episode is a state of divergent thinking and awareness that results in a disconnect from reality. Someone struggling with psychosis may experience delusions (strong false beliefs), hallucinations (false perceptions), or both. These symptoms can mean:
- Persistent false beliefs, associations, or “magical” thinking
- Having unusual or frightening perceptual experiences
- Hearing, seeing, tasting, or feeling things that don’t exist
When a person’s perception, thinking, and understanding are disturbed by psychosis, it can be extremely challenging to tell the difference between delusions/hallucinations and reality. This abnormal distortion affects every level of functioning, from cognition and speech to emotion and behavior, giving rise to symptoms like:
- Muddled, rapid, or slow speech; frequent topic changes
- Strong, inappropriate emotions, or total lack of emotion
- Becoming socially withdrawn; acting suspicious of others
When first episode psychosis (FEP) appears during late adolescence or young adulthood — or between ages 16 and 35 — it’s often a sign of a developing psychotic disorder.
Psychosis isn’t always a sign of a psychotic disorder
While it’s most commonly a symptom of a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia, it’s important to recognize that psychosis can also occur with certain mood disorders: Psychotic episodes are a possible symptom of bipolar disorder and major depression.
Severe trauma, certain substance use disorders (SUDs), acute drug or alcohol withdrawal, brain disease or injury, and even extreme sleep deprivation can trigger psychosis. Determining the mechanisms behind psychosis is key to providing effective treatment.
The importance of early treatment and ongoing care
A typical psychotic episode progresses through three stages: The prodromal phase (gradual changes in thoughts, feelings, or behaviors), the acute phase (experiencing hallucinations and delusions), and the final phase, recovery.
Transitioning into the recovery phase of psychosis isn’t a guarantee — it’s wholly dependent on timely intervention and expert care. What’s more, people dealing with psychosis are more likely to recover if they receive early treatment, preferably soon after psychotic symptoms appear.
Our expert team combines evidence-based practices with a coordinated care approach to help patients transition from acute psychosis to a full, sustainable recovery. A comprehensive treatment plan that includes antipsychotic medications, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), inpatient care as needed, and ongoing support programs can:
- Help minimize the chances of psychotic relapse
- Diminish the risk of aggressive or suicidal behaviors
- Increase memory and ability to concentrate
- Foster better health and a restored quality of life
If you or someone you love is struggling with a psychotic disorder, EXIS Recovery can help. Call 424-832-0848 to reach our West Los Angeles office today, or click online to schedule a visit with one of our experienced mental health experts at any time.