Shared Psychotic Disorder
Anyone in the world of psychology knows that there is a multitude of mental disorders that can affect many different people on many different levels. Some are quite common and relatively easy to treat and then there are those that are extremely rare but do exist. A shared psychotic disorder is one of those types of disorders when it comes to rarity.
What is Shared Psychotic Disorder?
A shared psychotic disorder is a relatively rare kind of mental disorder where a perfectly healthy person will start to suffer from the same delusions of someone else who might be suffering from a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia.
A simple example might be when a spouse suffers from a psychotic disorder and part of their illness might be that they think that there are aliens who are spying on them. If their partner starts believing the same thing this would be considered to be a shared psychotic disorder. Other than that, the partner’s behavior and thoughts tend to be normal.
Typical Symptoms of a Psychotic Disorder
Those who suffer from a psychotic disorder will often have problems staying in touch with the reality around them and they very often can’t even handle the simple things of their daily life. Some of the most common symptoms can be hallucinations where they see or hear things that just aren’t there. They also can suffer from delusions which means that they believe in things that simply are not true, this means even when they are given the true facts.
Tied to Long-Term Relationships
A shared psychotic disorder will usually happen when someone is in a relationship that is long-term and the person that has a psychotic disorder tends to be the dominant party in the relationship and the other one is the passive partner.
The couple will usually tend to have a very close emotional bond to one another. However, they generally don’t have very strong social ties with one another or other people.
Shared Psychotic Disorders With Groups
A shared psychotic disorder can happen in groups. These are people who tend to be closely involved with someone who is suffering from a psychotic disorder, often called “the madness of many”. For example, this might happen in a cult setting where the leader is suffering from a psychotic disorder and their followers will take on the delusions of their leader.
To this day, the experts in this field still don’t know why shared psychotic disorder happens. However, they do believe that it’s possible that social isolation and stress can help to play a big role in the development of this disorder.
How It’s Diagnosed
A person suspected of suffering from this disorder will be asked to answer questions about their psychiatric and physical history and they may also be given a physical examination.
Unfortunately, there are no physical lab tests that can help to diagnose this type of disorder. But, doctors might use tools like brain imaging procedures that include MRI scans. They also might do some blood tests to try and rule out physical causes for the disorder.
If there are no physical reasons for the symptoms a person is exhibiting, the doctor then might refer their patient to someone like a psychologist or a psychiatrist. These experts will then talk to the patient, listen to what their symptoms are, closely observe their behavior and attitude. They will then want to find out if their patient is very close to another person who might suffer from delusions.
What is the Treatment?
Because this type of disorder is pretty rare, finding an effective treatment can be difficult because there are no well-established treatments at this time. Generally, treatment will involve separating the other person who they are sharing the disorder with.
The treatments that a patient might be asked to get involved with can include:
Psychotherapy – This is the kind of counseling that can help a person to recognize their delusions and to help them get back to a healthier way of thinking. This may be very hard because a person who is suffering from delusions might not be able to actually see that they have any issues in their own thinking. This kind of therapy also tries to ease the emotional distress that comes from this disorder as well as the personal relationship that they have with their mentally ill partner.
Family Therapy – This type of therapy works with the family of the patient who is suffering from a shared psychotic disorder. Some of the goals might include boosting the patient’s activities and their interests. They may also try to encourage the development of healthier social ties, along with helping them to stick to their medications and getting their lives going the right direction.
Medications – If a person in therapy tends to continue to have the symptoms of this disorder, even after they separate from the partner suffering from delusions, they might have to be put on some sort of anti-psychotic medication. This will be for a short period of time until the symptoms go away. There are times when a doctor will also prescribe a sedative or tranquilizer to help lessen the intense symptoms they might be suffering from like extreme restlessness, insomnia, or anxiety.
What Can Happen If Not Treated?
If someone is suffering from this disorder and they are not treated, it can become a serious ongoing issue. Those with any kind of delusional disorder will often not be able to understand or realize that they need some sort of treatment and often will decide not to even take their medications. This can make it very difficult to treat.
If a person suffering from shared psychotic disorder does follow their treatment they will have a great chance of recovering.
Can You Prevent Shared Psychotic Disorders?
Unfortunately, the answer is no. The most important key here is to get it diagnosed and then start treatment as soon as they can. This way there will be minimal damage to the patient, their life, friendships, and family.