Brief Psychotic Disorder Causes & Effects

The signs, symptoms, and effects of brief psychotic disorder can look different for each person impacted. Learning about brief psychotic disorder is one of the first steps toward healing.

Understanding Brief Psychotic Disorder

Learn about brief psychotic disorder

Brief psychotic disorder is an appropriate diagnosis for a person who experiences a sudden onset of psychosis that lasts for at least one day but less than one month. Those who suffer from this disorder will experience delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, and/or disorganized behaviors or catatonia, but will ultimately return to their previous level of functioning once the psychotic symptoms have subsided. This disorder can occur in response to an extreme stressor, during pregnancy, or within four weeks after a woman has given birth. Depending on the severity of symptoms present, some individuals may need assistance in order to perform daily tasks and avoid harm because of the presence of psychotic symptoms.

What is important to know, however, is that a person with brief psychotic disorder can be helped. There are proven effective treatment options available that can help an individual when symptoms emerge.


Brief psychotic disorder statistics

Researchers believe that around nine percent of those who experience a first-time onset of psychosis are actually suffering from brief psychotic disorder. Additionally, research has also found that females are twice as likely to suffer from this condition than are males. Lastly, the average age of onset for brief psychotic disorder is the mid-thirties, though individuals in adolescence or early adulthood can experience symptoms of this disorder as well.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for brief psychotic disorder

Research shows that brief psychotic disorder can be caused by a marked stressor or stressors that cause a person to detach from reality. Additionally, some individuals go on to experience this condition while pregnant or after pregnancy, which is known brief psychotic disorder with postpartum onset.

In terms of an individual’s risk for experiencing symptoms synonymous with brief psychotic disorder, research shows that those with certain personality traits are more susceptible than others. People who have personalities that closely resemble schizotypal personality disorder or borderline personality disorder are more vulnerable to having a brief psychotic episode.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of brief psychotic disorder

In order for a person to be diagnosed with brief psychotic disorder, he or she must present with at least one of the following symptoms:

Delusions: When a person holds true to a belief or set of beliefs despite evidence that proves them otherwise, that individual is likely experiencing a delusion. The following are examples of delusions that a person can experience:

  • Persecutory delusions are beliefs that one is going to be harmed by others or an organization.
  • Grandiose delusions are beliefs that one is famous, exceptionally gifted, or talented in some way.
  • Erotomanic delusions are when a person believes that another individual is in love with him or her.
  • Nihilistic delusions are when a person believes that a disaster or catastrophe is impending.
  • Somatic delusions cause a person to feel as though there is something wrong with his or her health or the functioning of his or her organs.  

Hallucinations: When an individual hears or sees something, yet the perceived stimulus is nonexistent, that person is experiencing a hallucination. In many instances, when that individual hears voices, that voice is not that of the individual who is hearing it.

Disorganized speech: Sometimes described as “word salad,” disorganized speech occurs when a person rapidly switches from one topic to the next, speaks incoherently, or discusses topics that seem nonsensical. When a person displays disorganized speech, it often dramatically hinders his or her ability to communicate effectively.

Disorganized or catatonic behavior: The following are examples of disorganized or catatonic behavior:

  • Unpredictable or excessive movement
  • Non-goal directed activity that prevents a person from completing tasks
  • Bizarre posture
  • Complete lack of movement
  • Repetitive behaviors

When one or more of the above symptoms are occurring, and are not due to the presence of another mental disorder, medical condition, or because an individual has consumed a drug, then it is likely that that individual is suffering from brief psychotic disorder.


Effects of brief psychotic disorder

When a person suffers from brief psychotic disorder, the prognosis can be good when treatment is sought. In seeking treatment, any potential harm or risk that would otherwise occur while a person experiences psychosis can be minimized. However, without receiving care, a person is at risk for experiencing additional distressing episodes of psychosis that can last at least one day or up to 30 days at a time, in addition to an elevated risk for suicide during those episodes.

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