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Understanding Psychotic Disorders

November 23, 2022

7 min read

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Author : United We Care
Understanding Psychotic Disorders


Psychotic disorders are abnormal mental conditions that impact brain functions. These conditions alter thoughts and perceptions, making it difficult for the affected person to differentiate between reality and illusion or their imaginations. 

The common symptoms a person experiences during a psychotic episode include a distance from reality, hallucinations, delusions, and social withdrawal.

Psychosis may not only manifest as a symptom of mental disease but as the result of an underlying physical condition. This article examines psychotic disorders, their symptoms, causes, and treatment options.[1]

What is Psychotic Disorder?

A psychotic disorder is a mental condition in which the affected person conjures things and situations in their mind.

For example, they may hear voices, think someone is stalking or spying on them, feel someone’s presence, and assume that other people are playing with and manipulating their emotions and thoughts. Some people also start believing that their friends and families are plotting against them or someone is trying to say something when none of the situations is real.

Most importantly, the affected individual is unaware of their behaviour or actions.

Psychotic disorder is a severe mental condition in which the affected person can experience intense and sometimes life-threatening symptoms, making it difficult for them to relate to reality and function in everyday life. 

The good thing is – although psychotic disorders can be severe, these are treatable. Treatment may vary from person to person, depending on the cause. It may include medications and various therapies. Hospitalisation can be a resort in emergencies when the affected person can cause harm to themselves or others; hospitalisation can be a resort.[2][3]

Symptoms of Psychotic Disorder

The symptoms of a psychotic disease can surface over time or all of a sudden. The common symptoms include the following:

  • Trouble concentrating on daily tasks

  • Increased anxiety or agitation

  • Loss of pleasure in daily activities (anhedonia)

  • Social withdrawal

  • Poor personal hygiene

  • Hearing or seeing things that are not real (hallucinations)

  • A strong sense of paranoia

  • Disorganised speech

  • Inability to express emotions properly

  • Brain fog

  • Decrease or increase in appetite

  • Dangerous movements or activities

  • A strong belief that someone is out to harm us (delusions)

  • Moving randomly from one topic to another (divergent thinking)

  • Uses made-up phrases or words (neologisms)

  • Issues in school or work

  • Trouble in personal relationships

  • Frequent mood swings, switching from mania to depression

Causes of Psychotic Disorder

The exact causes of psychotic disorders are still unknown. However, studies talk about the various factors associated with the development of psychoses. Let us have a look:

  • Genetics: Researchers believe that psychosis runs in families, and if their family has a history of psychosis, it may increase an individual’s risk of developing psychotic disorders.

  • Substance abuse: Consumption of hallucinogens such as L.S.D. is often associated with psychosis, as has the abuse of alcohol.[9]

  • Hormones: Gonadal and adrenal hormones may cause psychosis in adolescents. Decreased estrogen and increased cortisol levels are also related to the development of psychosis.

  • Changes in chemical receptors: Excess dopamine may cause hallucinations and delusions, while decreased levels of glutamate can lead to cognitive issues.

  • Anxiety: Those who experience continuous or heightened stress levels are at an increased risk of developing psychotic disorders. 

  • Other factors like stress, medications, and medical conditions may develop psychotic disorders.

Types of Psychotic Disorders

According to ICD10 and DSM5 classification, the following are the types of psychotic disorders:

  • Schizotypal or personality disorder: A schizotypal or personality disorder typically experiences increased social anxiety, inappropriate or flat emotional responses, eccentric behaviour, thinking anomalies, social withdrawal, and auditory or vision-related hallucinations.

  • Delusional disorder is a mental condition in which the affected person cannot distinguish between reality and imagination. They strongly cling to a false or imaginary belief and stick to it despite clear proof. 

  • Brief psychotic condition: Extreme stress, like a death in a family or a traumatic incident, can trigger this condition. The affected individual may not be mindful of their bizarre behaviour and actions. 

  • Schizophreniform disorder: It is a short-term mental illness that impairs the way a person thinks, acts, expresses emotions, relates to other people, and interprets reality. Unlike schizophrenia, it is not a lifelong condition.[6][7]

  • Schizophrenia is a severe mental health condition in which the affected individual perceives reality abnormally. It may lead to various signs and symptoms, including delusions, hallucinations, and disoriented thought processes that cause impairment of everyday functioning. [5][8]

  • Schizoaffective disorder is another type of psychotic disorder in which the affected person experiences a combination of mood disorder (mania, depression) and schizophrenia (delusion, hallucinations) symptoms.

  • Medication or substance-induced psychotic disorder develops due to the direct impact of medicine(s) or substance use or withdrawal.

  • Catatonia is a behavioural syndrome in which the affected person cannot move normally. It can be due to schizophrenia or any other medical condition, and symptoms may include lack of speech, strange body movements, and staying still.

Other types include psychotic ailments due to another health condition, specified and unspecified schizophrenia spectrum, and other psychotic disorders.[4][5]

Treatment of Psychotic Disorder

Doctors may use a combined approach using anti-psychotic medications, psychological treatments, and social support to help manage the symptoms of psychotic disorders.[10] Let us have a look:


  • Doctors use anti-psychotic medicines as the first step toward treating psychosis. These medications block the effect of dopamine, a neurotransmitter or a chemical that sends messages to the brain. These help with controlling delusions and hallucinations.
  • Likewise, doctors prescribe benzodiazepines for treating catatonia (lack of movement).
  • Doctors may also prescribe anti-depressants if the patient displays symptoms of depression. 

Psychological therapies

Doctors are likely to use psychological therapies to minimise the intensity and stress due to psychosis. Psychological treatments are of several types, including

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy,

  • Family intervention, and

  • Self-help groups.

Rehabilitation for Psychotic Disorder

However, the doctor might suggest rehabilitation if the above treatment options help the person with a psychotic disorder. Rehabilitation helps with skill and confidence-building and helps the affected person to become self-dependent.

Misconceptions about Psychotic Disorders

Moreover, the term’ psychotic disorder’ may evoke a sense of fear. Here are a few common misconceptions about psychotic disorders:

Psychotic disorders make us out of control

Although people with psychosis experience hallucinations and delusions, making it difficult to distinguish fiction from reality, it does not make them out of control.

 Psychotic disorders come out of nowhere.

Most people think psychotic disorders arise out of nowhere but are symptoms of an underlying mental or medical condition.

Individuals with psychotic disorders have multiple personalities

In addition, a loss of touch with reality is one of the characteristics of psychotic disorders. However, this does not mean the person develops various characteristics, a separate mental illness known as dissociative identity disorder, where an individual displays several distinct personalities. 


Psychotic disorders are mental conditions characterised by a loss of touch with reality. This disorder may disrupt a person’s life and create relationship issues. However, early diagnosis and proper treatment can help manage the symptoms. 

Are you or a loved one experiencing the signs of psychosis? Visit United We Care. We are an online mental health platform that connects you with the best therapists in your journey toward mental well-being. Bred from love and passion, United We Care allows you to attain equal and inclusive access to support from the comfort of your home.

[1] J. Phillips, What are psychotic disorders? Brightpoint Press, 2022.
[2]“Psychotic disorders,” Gouvernement du Québec. [Online]. Available: https://www.quebec.ca/en/health/advice-and-prevention/mental-health/learn-about-mental-disorders/mental-disorders/psychotic-disorders-1. [Accessed: 25-Mar-2023].
[3] “Psychotic disorders,” Mental Health and Behavior, 2005.
[4] “LibGuides: DSM-5: Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders,” 2020.
[5] “ICD-10 version:2016,” Who. Int. [Online]. Available: https://icd.who.int/browse10/2016/en#/F20-F29. [Accessed: 25-Mar-2023].
[6] “Schizophreniform disorder,” Cleveland Clinic. [Online]. Available: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9571-schizophreniform-disorder. [Accessed: 25-Mar-2023]
[7] “Schizophreniform disorder,” Cleveland Clinic. [Online]. Available: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9571-schizophreniform-disorder. [Accessed: 25-Mar-2023].
[8] “Schizophrenia,” Mayo Clinic, 07-Jan-2020. [Online]. Available: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/schizophrenia/symptoms-causes/syc-20354443. [Accessed: 25-Mar-2023].
[9] Substance Abuse, Table 3.20, DSM-IV to DSM-5 psychotic disorders. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2016.
[10] “Treatment – psychosis,” NHS. Uk. [Online]. Available: https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/psychosis/treatment/. [Accessed: 25-Mar-2023]


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Author : United We Care

Founded in 2020, United We Care (UWC) is providing mental health and wellness services at a global level, UWC utilizes its team of dedicated and focused professionals with expertise in mental healthcare, to solve 2 essential missing components in the market, sustained user engagement and program efficacy/outcomes.

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