Brief Psychotic Disorder: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

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  • 0:06 Brief Psychotic Disorder
  • 1:09 Diagnosis
  • 3:16 Causes & Types
  • 4:36 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

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 You look down to where your hands are supposed to be, and they've been replaced by feet.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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

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