Psychotic disorders are a group of serious illnesses that affect the mind. They make it hard for someone to think clearly, make good judgments, respond emotionally, communicate effectively, understand reality, and behave appropriately.
When symptoms are severe, people with psychotic disorders have trouble staying in touch with reality and often are unable to handle daily life. But even severe psychotic disorders usually can be treated.
There are different types of psychotic disorders, including:
- Schizophrenia: People with this illness have changes in behavior and other symptoms — such as delusions and hallucinations — that last longer than 6 months. It usually affects them at work or school, as well as their relationships. Know the early warning signs of schizophrenia.
- Schizoaffective disorder: People have symptoms of both schizophrenia and a mood disorder, such as depression or bipolar disorder. Learn more about the symptoms of schizoaffective disorder.
- Schizophreniform disorder: This includes symptoms of schizophrenia, but the symptoms last for a shorter time: between 1 and 6 months. Find out more on schizophreniform disorder symptoms to look for.
- Brief psychotic disorder: People with this illness have a sudden, short period of psychotic behavior, often in response to a very stressful event, such as a death in the family. Recovery is often quick — usually less than a month. Get more information about the different forms of brief psychotic disorder.
- Delusional disorder the key symptom is having a delusion (a false, fixed belief) involving a real-life situation that could be true but isn’t, such as being followed, being plotted against, or having a disease. The delusion lasts for at least 1 month. Read more on the types of delusions.
- Shared psychotic disorder (also called folie à deux): This illness happens when one person in a relationship has a delusion and the other person in the relationship adopts it, too. Learn more about the shared psychotic disorder and how it develops.
- Substance-induced psychotic disorder: This condition is caused by the use of or withdrawal from drugs, such as hallucinogens and crack cocaine, that cause hallucinations, delusions, or confused speech. Find out more on substance-induced psychosis and other causes of secondary psychosis.
- Psychotic disorder due to another medical condition: Hallucinations, delusions, or other symptoms may happen because of another illness that affects brain function, such as a head injury or brain tumor.
- Paraphrenia: This condition has symptoms similar to schizophrenia. It starts late in life, when people are elderly.
The main ones are hallucinations, delusions, and disordered forms of thinking.
- Hallucinations means seeing, hearing, or feeling things that don’t exist. For instance, someone might see things that aren’t there, hear voices, smell odors, have a “funny” taste in their mouth, or feel sensations on their skin even though nothing is touching their body.
- Delusions are false beliefs that don’t go away even after they’ve been shown to be false. For example, a person who is certain their food is poisoned, even if someone has shown them that the food is fine, has a delusion.
Other possible symptoms of psychotic illnesses include:
- Disorganized or incoherent speech
- Confused thinking
- Strange, possibly dangerous behavior
- Slowed or unusual movements
- Loss of interest in personal hygiene
- Loss of interest in activities
- Problems at school or work and with relationships
- Cold, detached manner with the inability to express emotion
- Mood swings or other mood symptoms, such as depression or mania
- People don’t always have the same symptoms, and they can change over time in the same person.