Psychotic disorders are characterized by a general loss of touch with reality accompanied by periods of brief delusion. To be classified as a psychotic disorder, rather than a more specific condition, no symptoms of a more severe illness can be present. It has been argued that psychosis may simply be an altered state of consciousness that is neither explainable, nor experienced on a normal basis by most. Hallucinations can be caused by a religious experience, toxins or poisons, or by an internal or physiological illness. There is quite a bit of gray area when trying to determine a clinical definition, and therefore it may be difficult to come to clinical diagnosis for psychotic disorders.
Symptoms of Psychotic Disorders
People who experience psychotic disorders are usually subject to at least one of the following:
- Hallucinations occur when the senses (usually sight or hearing, but not limited to these) perceive stimuli which is not actually happening in reality. For example, a person may hear voices or other sounds, such as a car or train, when there is no external stimuli present. Hallucinations may be simple or complex, ranging from seeing a faint light to having an in-depth conversation with a person or other being.
- Delusions are defined as beliefs which are not based in reality, nor are they able to be comprehended by normal mental processes. A person with psychotic disorder may be subject to delusional thinking, and this may or may not be of a paranoid nature.
- Thought disorder causes periods of broken and incomprehensible speech or writing. It is caused by a disturbance in conscious thought and may result in rambling or speech patterns that are not understandable by others.
Causes of Psychotic Disorders
Psychotic disorders may be caused by physical ailments, psychological disturbances or psychoactive drug use. Physical diseases or conditions, such as brain tumor, Lyme disease, syphilis, AIDS, Parkinson's disease, hypoglycemia, lupus and others can lead to hallucinations and delusional thinking. Psychological problems like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, severe depression, trauma or even sleep deprivation have been known to cause symptoms. Alternatively, there are many drugs, both legal and illegal, that can cause and perpetuate symptoms, or intensify already existing psychotic susceptibility.
Diagnosing Psychotic Disorders
In order to diagnose psychotic disorders, a trained physician must first conduct a physical examination to rule out any possible ailments with the brain or other bodily functions. If nothing is found, a psychological evaluation will be in order. Episodes of psychosis can arise for many reasons and stem from many situations. Since it is not always necessary to treat mild symptoms of this disorder, it will be important to note how frequently hallucinations or delusional episodes arise, and how they are adversely affecting daily life, such as jobs and relationships. The severity and frequency of episodes coupled with the impact on normal functioning will help to determine the most successful options for treatment.
Treating Psychotic Disorders
There are several options for treating general and more specific psychotic disorders. Once the details are determined, medication may be discussed and considered. Many types of therapy can be beneficial as well. Following is a brief list of treatment options for psychotic disorders:
- Medication – if symptoms are severe, as determined by a professional, anti-psychotic medication is often the first choice. Occasionally, hospitalization may be required. While electroconvulsive therapy (shock treatment) is not commonly used, it may be recommended to treat underlying conditions, such as severe depression.
- Psychotherapy – many types of therapy can bring about awareness of triggering events which may be leading to symptoms, and teach patients new coping skills and alternative ways to react that may help prevent psychosis. Additionally, individual root causes may be discovered and prevented in the future.
- Alternative therapy – many forms of alternative health care can lead to beneficial results. Animal-assisted therapy can bring about general well-being for patients with schizophrenic symptoms, and programs involving meditation or relaxation techniques can encourage whole-body healing and understanding of the mind.