What is Brief Psychotic Disorder?
Brief psychotic disorder or brief reactive psychosis is a short-term mental disorder characterized by abnormal thinking and perceptions. An episode of the disorder usually lasts an average of 17 days. The disorder can be thought of as time-limited schizophrenia that gets resolved within a month. Characteristics of the disorder may include delusions or hallucinations that do not last more than a month. While most people with the illness have just one episode, some eventually go on to suffer from a more chronic mental illness.
There are three basic forms of the disorder.
- Brief psychotic disorder with obvious stressors
- Brief psychotic disorder without obvious stressors
- Brief psychotic disorder with postpartum onset
Treatment for brief psychotic disorders often includes a combination of antipsychotic medication and psychotherapy. Antipsychotic medication may be prescribed to decrease or eliminate the symptoms. Psychotherapy, on the other hand, helps a person identify and deal with the root of the problem. It also helps decrease a patient’s anxiety and educate him or her about the disorder.
Symptoms of Brief Psychotic Disorder
The problem is typically diagnosed in individuals in the late 20s or early 30s. Brief psychotic disorder is characterized by the following symptoms:
- Grossly abnormal psychomotor behavior
- Disorganized, irregular speech or language
The sudden onset of psychotic symptoms may begin in response to a marked stressor (i.e., brief reactive psychosis), such as a trauma, an accident or sudden loss of a loved one, or postpartum if the onset is during pregnancy or within four weeks of childbirth. Sometimes, symptoms of brief psychotic disorder do not have an apparent cause.
Brief Psychotic Disorder: Diagnosis
To be diagnosed with a brief psychotic disorder, the symptoms should last more than one day but should subside within a month. Delusions and hallucinations are the most common symptoms of the disorder, which is also associated with memory problems, disorientation or confusion, poor decision-making, sleeping and eating pattern changes, emotional turmoil, confusion and rapid and intense mood shifts.
The severity of the disorder is indicated by the quantitative assessment of primary symptoms of psychosis. Psychotic episodes are brief, but the level of impairment can be severe; the individual might require hospitalization or supervision to prevent violent or suicidal behavior.
In addition, brief episodes of psychotic disorder can be precursors to chronic mental conditions like schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. To be detected as a disorder, the symptoms should not be the result of another psychiatric disorder or medical condition, or due to direct physiological effects of a medication or substance of abuse. This is because some professionals believe that brief psychotic disorders are an early indicator of schizophrenia.
Causes of Psychotic Disorders
The causes of a brief psychotic disorder are not known, but the disorder is thought to be due to a mix of biological, environmental, genetic and psychological factors. Psychotic disorders like brief psychotic disorders are known to run in families. According to experts, there is a genetic component underlying the development of this disorder, as it is more prevalent among people with a family history of mood disorders, such as bipolar disorder or depression. In addition, multiple genes are thought to be involved in the development of psychosis.
Another theory suggests that poor coping skills in response to a stressor can increase the risk of a brief psychotic disorder. It is more likely to develop among people with pre-existing personality disorders and traits (e.g., schizotypal or borderline personality disorder; traits in the psychoticism domain, such as perceptual dysregulation). A brief psychotic disorder is rare but it is more likely to occur in adolescents and young adults. Women are also more likely than men to develop this problem.