Psychotic Disorders: Symptoms & Treatments

Diagnosing and Treating Psychotic Disorders


Psychotic disorders are psychiatric illnesses characterized by delusions and hallucinations:

  • Delusions: False beliefs, such as thinking that you can influence people or events with the power of your mind or believing that someone is “out to get you” (paranoia).
  • Hallucinations: False sensory perceptions, such as hearing, seeing, or feeling something that is not there.

Psychiatric Conditions That May Include Psychosis

Although schizophrenia is most closely associated with psychosis, several psychiatric conditions may include psychosis as a symptom:

  • Schizophrenia: A severe brain disorder that negatively impacts a person’s thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and perceptions.
  • Schizotypal disorder: A personality disorder very similar to schizophrenia, but with psychotic episodes that are not as frequent, intense, or prolonged. Also, people with schizotypal personality disorder can often be made aware of the distinction between reality and their own distorted perceptions and beliefs, whereas those with schizophrenia may be unable to draw a distinction.
  • Bipolar disorder: During severe bipolar episodes (mania or depression), a person may experience psychosis. In fact, people with bipolar disorder are commonly misdiagnosed as having schizophrenia.
  • Depression: Major depressive episodes may be accompanied by psychosis.
  • Drug and alcohol use: Excessive or long-term use of alcohol and certain drugs, including marijuana, can result in psychotic episodes.
  • Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions that affect the brain may also result in psychosis, including brain tumors, brain infections, and stroke.

Important: Just because someone experiences psychosis does not mean they have schizophrenia.

Treatments for Psychotic Disorders

Treatments for psychosis vary depending on the cause. For example, if the cause is a brain tumor, various treatments may be available to remove or shrink the tumor. In the case of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or depression, anti-psychotic medications are often used and may also be helpful in alleviating the accompanying mania or depression. If the psychosis is part of the schizotypal personality disorder, psychotherapy may be sufficient, alone or with medication, to help the person develop healthier thinking and behavioral patterns.