What happens when a normal person suddenly starts suffering from hallucinations and delusions? In this lesson, we'll look at brief psychotic disorder, including its symptoms and subtypes.
Brief Psychotic Disorder
Imagine that you wake up one morning and everything is different. You look down to where your hands are supposed to be, and they've been replaced by feet. Your hands are at the end of your legs! You show your best friend that your hands and feet have been switched, and she acts like they're normal to her. That's when you figure it out: The government did surgery to switch your hands and feet, and your best friend is in on the conspiracy!
You spend several days, maybe even a few weeks, trying to get to the bottom of the conspiracy. Then one day, everything goes back to normal. Your hands are hands again, and your feet are where they're supposed to be. Thinking back on it, you realize that they were never switched that there wasn't any conspiracy.
But what happened? You might have been suffering from brief psychotic disorder, which is a mental illness that involves psychotic symptoms like hallucinations and delusions that last for at least one day, but no longer than one month. Let's look a little closer at brief psychotic disorder.
As we mentioned, a brief psychotic disorder lasts only a short period of time, usually less than a month. During the time of the disorder, a patient suffers from one or more of the following symptoms:
- Hallucinations. This is when you see or hear things that are not there. For example, when you looked at the end of your arms, you saw feet instead of hands, and you saw hands instead of feet at the end of your legs.
- Delusions. This is a belief in something despite evidence that it's not true. When you believed there was a government conspiracy and your best friend was in on it, that was a delusion.
- Disorganized Speech. This happens when you don't speak and/or think normally. Two types of disorganized speech are common in brief psychotic disorder: Derailment, when you stop talking or jump to a new topic midsentence, and incoherence, when your speech is so jumbled that it doesn't make sense.
- Odd movement. Specifically, people with brief psychotic disorder often behave in ways that seem to be completely disorganized and out of the blue. Alternatively, they may become catatonic, or unresponsive to the world around them.
Notice that the diagnosis requires that at least one of these four symptoms be present. However, the more symptoms you have, the more likely you are to be diagnosed with the disorder. For example, a person who just displays disorganized behavior might not be considered to be suffering from a brief psychotic disorder. However, someone who has delusions and disorganized behavior is more likely to be diagnosed.
There are several disorders that share symptoms with brief psychotic episode, which also makes the diagnosis complicated. After the psychotic episode, patients usually return to normal functioning. Just like when you finally realized that you were hallucinating and having delusions, most people are able to return to normal thought and behavior patterns after the episode is finished. However, if the symptoms last more than a month, the patient might be given a diagnosis of schizophrenia.
Causes and Types
What could cause such a bizarre episode like brief psychotic disorder? There are many things that can cause it. There seems to be a genetic link, because people who are related to others with psychotic disorders are more likely to suffer from a brief psychotic disorder than those who are not related to psychotic patients. But the environment plays a role, too. Major life issues, like divorce, loss of a job or other problems, can set off a brief psychotic episode.
There are three main types of brief psychotic episode. They are:
- Brief psychotic disorder with a stressor. As we said before, a life stressor like losing a job or loved one can cause a brief psychotic disorder.
- Brief psychotic disorder without a stressor. Sometimes, people have a brief psychotic episode without an obvious stressor. This may be because there isn't a stressor, or it may be because the stressor is not readily apparent. For example, an environmental toxin could cause a brief psychotic disorder, even when the patient and psychologist aren't aware that the patient has been exposed to it.
- Brief psychotic disorder with postpartum onset. Because of the hormones flowing through a woman's body during and right after pregnancy, some women experience a psychotic episode about four weeks after giving birth.
Brief psychotic disorder is a mental illness that involves a psychotic episode lasting for at least a day and no longer than a month. The patient suffers from one or more of the following four symptoms: hallucinations, delusions, disorganized speech and odd behavior. Both genetics and environment play a part in causing brief psychotic disorder, and the three subtypes are brief psychotic disorder with a stressor, without a stressor and with postpartum onset.
After finishing this lesson, you should be able to identify the possible causes of brief psychotic episode.