Psychotic Disorders: Definition and Perspectives in Mental Health

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  • 0:07 Psychosis
  • 0:48 Major Symptoms of Psychosis
  • 2:02 Historical Views
  • 2:59 Treatment
  • 4:33 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 does it mean to be psychotic? What exactly are psychotic disorders? In this lesson, we'll look at some of the symptoms common in psychotic disorders, how they are treated, and how they have historically been viewed.


Lisa hears voices that tell her secrets. The voices sound just like any other voice, and she can't tell the difference between the voices from real people around her and the ones from inside her head. The secrets her voices tell her involve the government, and she believes that the CIA is monitoring her thoughts and dreams.

Lisa is suffering from a psychotic disorder, or a psychological disorder that is marked by a break from reality. There are many types of psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia and schizophreniform disorder, schizoaffective disorder, brief psychotic disorder, delusional disorder and chronic hallucinatory psychosis.

There are four major symptoms that are seen in psychotic disorders:

Hallucinations: People with a psychotic disorder often see or hear things that are not real. They experience the hallucinations as solidly as they perceive actual stimuli, though, just as Lisa cannot distinguish between actual and hallucinated voices.

Delusions: People with a psychotic disorder also often hold onto false beliefs, even with evidence to the contrary. Some delusions are paranoid in nature, as when Lisa believes that the government is monitoring her. Other delusions may be self-aggrandizing or self-blaming.

Catatonia: When people do not react to the world around them, this is called catatonia, and catatonic states are sometimes present in psychotic disorders.

Thought disorder: Sometimes, people become so distanced from reality that their conscious thoughts become jumbled or disorganized. Since it is impossible to know exactly what people's thoughts are, this is often diagnosed based on speech or writing patterns. When people do not make sense and use words that are just thrown together with no meaning, they are sometimes diagnosed with thought disorder.

Historical Views

We know a lot about effective treatments of psychotic disorders today, but that wasn't always the case. In the mid-19th century, the term 'psychosis' was first introduced to refer to disorders of the brain and mind. Late in the 19th century, Emil Kraepelin divided psychosis into disorders like bipolar and severe depression, which are considered to be mood disorders today, and disorders like schizophrenia, which now make up the psychotic disorders classification.

Throughout most of history, psychotic disorders were treated with hospitalization. Mental institutions were filled with people suffering from psychosis, and most of them were never released once they were committed. In 1955, though, the first antipsychotic drug was introduced on the market. Over the next 10 years, as the drug became more readily available, many people with psychotic disorders were released from hospitals and treated with drug and talk therapy, while being able to live and work in the regular world.

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