Psychotic Disorders Overview
Psychotic disorders, also referred to as psychoses, are defined as any abnormal conditions of the mind. The most common symptoms of those suffering from psychotic disorders include hallucinations, delusions, and/or the demonstration of thought disorders. There are many potential causes of psychotic disorders, some of which include drugs, diseases, brain tumors, severe sleep deprivation, severe depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.
Symptoms of Psychotic Disorders
The major symptoms associated with psychotic disorders, as mentioned above, include hallucinations, delusions, and thought disorders. Hallucinations are defined as sensory perceptions with the absence of actual stimuli. Hallucinations can be visual, auditory, olfactory, and/or tactile. Although any of the senses can be involved, the most common hallucinations are auditory, through the perception of voices; auditory hallucinations are most commonly associated with schizophrenia. Other somewhat common hallucinations that might occur as a result of psychotic disorders include the visualization or sensation of insects on the skin. These hallucinations, however, are more common as a result of a drug related psychotic disorders.
Delusions, on the other hand, are defined as irrational beliefs that are not founded in reality. Delusions of grandeur, for example, tend to occur during the manic episodes of bipolar disorder, where individuals have delusions that they are more important and powerful than in reality. Other examples of delusions include paranoid delusions, which occur when individuals become extremely suspicious of their environment, with no basis in reality.
Finally, individuals suffering from psychotic disorders may also experience thought disorder, in which their consciousness is affected, leading to altered associations with reality and conceptual understanding. Thought disorder manifests through altered speech and writing, in which an inability to link ideas and concepts becomes apparent. All of these symptoms are commonly seen in psychotic disorders, although they may not all co-occur. Some may only suffer from hallucinations, while others only suffer from delusions. Similarly, one individual my suffer from severe thought disorder and hallucinations concurrently, but not suffer from delusions at all.
Types of Psychotic Disorders
By far, Schizophrenia is the condition most commonly associated with psychosis. Schizophrenia is a mental condition in which individuals suffer from hallucinations, delusions, and often times abnormal speech and writing. There are many types of schizophrenia, including paranoid, catatonic, and disorganized type, with the most common type being paranoid. Causes of schizophrenia aren’t completely understood, but it is thought that genetics in combination with environmental experiences and neuroanatomy contribute to disease onset.
Paranoid schizophrenia, the most common form, involves an intense belief that people are plotting against the schizophrenic individual. These ideas, which are delusions, are not based in reality. As the severity of the condition increases, the magnitude of these delusions can increase, leading the person to believe that nearly every aspect of their environment is suspect. It is also common for paranoid schizophrenics to suffer from auditory hallucinations, most commonly a voice or multiple voices, which are not generated by any observable stimuli. The voice or voices may speak directly to the individual, or talk to each other.
Schizophrenia is typically diagnosed by a psychologist or psychiatrist. The diagnosis is based on the diagnostic criteria within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. In order to be diagnosed with the condition, the individual in question must demonstrate a specific number of attributes, as put forth by the manual. The presence of hallucinations and delusions, for example, are used to make the diagnosis.
Treatment for Psychotic Disorders
Treatment for psychotic disorders depends on the cause. For example, if a brain tumor is causing the disorder, removal of the tumor and associated treatment may cure the condition. Similarly, if drugs are the root cause, addressing the drug problem will likely irradiate the psychosis. Schizophrenia, on the other hand, typically requires long term, or life long therapy. With regards to schizophrenia, the most common treatment involves the use of anti-psychotic medications in combination with cognitive therapy. It is not uncommon for the individual suffering from the condition to require hospitalization, which allows for immediate intervention to stabilize the patient. In addition to the medications typically used to treat schizophrenia, some patients may also require the use of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). This treatment option is often used only after all other treatment attempts have failed, but can result in an improvement in the disease state.
Effects of Psychotic Disorders
Individuals suffering from schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders are also likely to have other co-morbid conditions, with the most common being major depression and anxiety disorders. These individuals are also likely to have significant impacts on the lives of their family and friends, as psychotic disorders can generate a significant amount stress and anxiety. Individuals suffering from psychotic disorders can become irrational and unpredictable, as a result of their delusions and intense hallucinations, making it very difficult to reason with them. As the delusions and hallucinations become more severe, and the behavior becomes more erratic, the person can become dangerous to themselves or others, requiring prompt and emergent treatment. In addition to the concern for the individual suffering from the condition, those suffering psychotic disorders as well as their family often encounter financial difficulties regarding treatment and management as well.
Treatment for Psychotic Disorders
Psychotic disorders can be frightening, and achieving the accurate diagnosis and treatment can be difficult. The stigma associated with mental disorders is still very strong, making many people afraid to come forward with respect to their condition. Regardless, prompt and appropriate diagnosis and treatment is essential to improve the quality of life for the affected individual, as well as reduce the risk of any injury to themselves or others as a result of their psychotic disorders. Furthermore, the treatment options available today are enabling many individuals suffering from psychotic disorders to lead highly functional and rewarding lives.