What is a Psychotic Episode?
No doubt you have heard the term psychotic episode but do you really know what it means and what can cause it? This type of episode is when someone’s reality judgment is seriously affected. It can happen during the course of a serious mental illness like schizophrenia. It can also happen because of emotional episodes that can overcome people.
What Exactly is a Psychotic Episode?
People who suffer from some sort of psychosis will usually be unable to distinguish their personal experiences of reality from what’s going on with the outside world. It can be seen as a loss of touch with reality.
Those suffering from a psychotic episode may experience delusional thoughts and/or hallucinations that they truly believe to be real. They can often communicate and behave incoherently or inappropriately. An episode can appear as one of several symptoms of a large number of different mental health disorders like personality and mood disorders and quite often is the defining criteria for schizophrenia.
What Causes Psychotic Episodes?
There really isn’t a single factor for these episodes taking place. They can occur due to psychosocial or biological factors, or even both.
- Psychosocial Factors – One-factor points to migration and the stress of moving from one country to another can influence psychotic mental disorders. The change in the rhythm of their lives and social inequalities can provoke major stress. This is just one example of psychosocial factors.
- Biological Factors – This can be caused by abnormalities in genetic factors, substance abuse, and brain damage are a few examples of biological factors.
Some Symptoms of Psychotic Episodes
Psychotic episodes are often characterized by some of these symptoms:
- Delusions – These usually are thoughts about facts or situations that a person may perceive as reality but are clearly not real or true.
- Hallucinations – This can be seeing, smelling, hearing, feeling, or tasting things that really aren’t there. The most common hallucination is hearing something that no one else hears and the least common is visual. However, there are some cases where their hallucinations can involve more than one sense.
- Disorganized Thinking – Many people who suffer from psychotic episodes, especially ones suffering from schizophrenia, will suffer from meaningless and incoherent speech. They will often jump from one idea to another without having any connection between the thoughts and ideas. Their thinking can be very incoherent.
- Low Motivation and Apathy – Many will have a lack of motivation and may feel apathetic towards everything and will stay in a lethargic state of mind.
What Mental Disorders Can Psychotic Episodes Appear?
There are a variety of disorders that psychotic episodes can appear:
- Brief Psychotic Disorders
- Schizophreniform Disorder
- Schizoaffective Disorder
- Delirious Disorder
- Substance-Induced Psychotic Disorder
- Bipolar Disorder
Schizophreniform, Schizophrenia, and Schizoaffective Disorders
All of the above disorders are very similar to the most common schizophrenia. They are all very often disorders that are long-lasting and can seriously affect the lives on a daily basis of those who suffer from them. Signs and symptoms of these different disorders can be quite diverse. This is why they are often considered to be spectrum disorders of the common disorder of schizophrenia. But, they do have some of the same common characteristics. When they suffer from a psychotic episode they may all suffer from hallucinations, loss of motivation, delusions, loss of social skills, no emotional expression, aggressiveness, hyperactivity, or even immobility.
Causes – The belief is that the cause of these disorders can be related to abnormalities in the actual chemical makeup of their brains and can be related to their genetics. But, the actual severity and course of all of these disorders depend on psychosocial factors as well, often it’s a huge amount of stress or the lack of support from family.
The main characteristic of this disorder is delusional ideas and in a lot of cases, the delusion is a single idea. This single delusional idea is often very resistant to any logical argument that they are presented. This means it’s extremely hard to convince a person suffering from this disorder that they need to seek treatment.
Causes – The exact cause for this disorder is still up for debate, but it could be hereditary. It also could have something to do with some neurological abnormality and changes in the chemistry of the brain. There have been some studies that point to possible abnormalities of the limbic system of the brain. This is the area of the brain that is related to emotional expression and regulation.
Brief Psychotic Episodes
This disorder can be caused by stress and trauma which can cause some short-term psychotic episodes that last for a month or less. These can be events that cause major life changes like the death of a loved one or the trauma of natural disasters. Those who suffer from this type of psychotic episode generally will not have a history of mental illness.
Medical Conditions & Psychotic Episodes
Some psychotic episodes can be caused by organic problems like neurological problems like cerebrovascular disorders or epilepsy. They might also be caused by endocrine or metabolic problems, electrolyte imbalances, renal failure, or autoimmune problems.
Psychosis can often be the side effect of using and abusing some drugs like hallucinogens, cocaine, amphetamines, marijuana, and even alcohol abuse. There are even some medications like chemotherapy drugs, steroids, and drugs used for Parkinson’s can cause psychotic episodes. Even Carbon monoxide poisoning cause be a cause.
Shared Psychotic Episodes
Even though this is somewhat uncommon, there have been cases of shared psychotic episodes or delusional disorder. This can involve two or more people who tend to have some strong ties and will often believe they are experiencing the same thing at the same time.
Those who suffer from bipolar disorder can often move from two different phases, their manic phase which is a phase where they tend to experience a high sense of euphoria. The depressive phase is filled with negative feelings, great sadness, uselessness, and hopelessness. Both phases might have psychotic symptoms.
How Can You Treat a Psychotic Episode?
Treatment is generally a combination of the following:
- Antipsychotic Medication – This will often alleviate the symptoms of psychosis and works effectively against hallucinations and delusions.
- Psychological Therapies – This can be individual cognitive behavioral therapy and it has been effective with patients suffering from schizophrenia. In some cases, it has helped to have family therapy as well because this can help to reduce the need for treatment in a hospital.
- Social Support – It’s important to have social support such as employment, education, and housing as well as a network of friends and family members. All of these are vital for improving the prognosis and recovery.
Depending upon what disorder a person is suffering from, any prognosis will be better if they seek some sort of help that is both therapy and medication. It’s important that if someone you know may be showing signs of psychosis that they get professional help so they might get an early diagnosis.