Psychotic and Schizophrenia Disorder Care


What are Psychotic Disorders?

Psychotic disorders are serious mental health conditions. People with these disorders have abnormal thoughts and find it difficult to tell what’s real from what isn’t. Psychotic disorders are rare, affecting just 1% of the population and often occurring in the late teens to early 30s. Men and women are equally affected.

Psychotic disorders cause odd behaviors, chaotic speech and incoherent thoughts. People with these symptoms are often called schizophrenic, but a doctor should be consulted for a medical diagnosis. If physical reasons for abnormal behaviors are ruled out, a psychiatrist should be consulted.

Types of Psychotic Disorders

The most common psychotic disorder is schizophrenia. This illness causes behavior changes, delusions and hallucinations that last longer than six months and affect social interaction, school and work. Additional types of psychotic disorders include:

  • Schizoaffective disorder
  • Schizophreniform disorder
  • Delusional disorders
  • Brief psychotic disorders
  • Substance-induced psychotic disorder
  • Psychotic disorder due to a medical condition

Psychotic Disorders & Schizophrenia Causes

While the exact cause of psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia, is unknown, researchers believe several a combination of physical, genetic, psychological and environmental factors play a role.

Like other mental health conditions, psychotic disorders are often genetic. There is evidence linking schizophrenia and genetic, however, no single gene is thought to be responsible. People with family members who have these psychotic disorders are at an increased risk.

Overactivity in brain chemicals that regulate normal functioning can also cause psychotic disorders. Additionally, studies suggest that people with psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia, have subtle differences in brain structures.

Some experts believe childhood schizophrenia could be linked to factors affecting mothers during pregnancy including drug or alcohol use, extreme stress, poor nutrition and exposure to some hormonal or chemical agents

Schizophrenia is more common in adults, but it also affects children and adolescents. When it occurs before the age of 18, it’s considered early-onset schizophrenia. Like adults, children with schizophrenia often inherit the condition. If a parent has the illness, a child has about a 10% to 15% chance of developing it. If more than one family member has the disorder, the risk is even higher.

Signs & Symptoms of Psychotic Disorders

People with psychotic disorders can experience hallucinations – they may see, hear, feel, taste or smell things that aren’t there. They can also experience delusions, which are unshakable beliefs in false or inaccurate ideas that conflict with reality. These experiences are very real to people with these disorders.

Signs of Schizophrenia

Symptoms of schizophrenia are considered either positive or negative – and most people with the illness experience both. Negative symptoms are normal feelings and abilities that schizophrenia takes away, such as feeling motivated or being interested in activities. Positive symptoms are easier to treat than negative ones, which tend to remain longer.

People with schizophrenia have at least two of these symptoms for six months or more. One of the two symptoms must include hallucinations, delusions or confused speech. Signs and symptoms of schizophrenia include:

  • Hallucinations – seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting or smelling things that aren’t there
  • Delusions – false ideas that are easily proved wrong, like believing you can fly or thinking you’re a different person
  • Confused speech – using words and sentences that don't make sense
  • Strange or repetitive behavior – acting in odd ways, like walking in circles or sitting motionless for hours
  • Withdrawal and lifelessness – displaying no emotion, motivation or interest in regular activities

Schizophrenia Triggers

Schizophrenia is an unpredictable illness with several triggers. In people at risk for developing schizophrenia, it can be triggered by using substances like alcohol or cocaine, traumatic events like being abused, and major life change like starting college or the death of a loved one. Getting help as soon as symptoms arise is important for children and adults alike. Intervening early can make recovery and symptom relief easier.

Diagnosing & Treating Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia Test & Diagnosis

If you or a loved one shows signs of psychosis, visit your doctor right away for a physical exam and review of your medical history. If physical reasons for the behaviors are ruled out, your doctor will consult with a behavioral health professional. Getting help as soon as symptoms arise is important for children and adults alike. Intervening early can make recovery and symptom relief easier.

Before schizophrenia is diagnosed, doctors need to find out if the symptoms are being caused by substance abuse, medication issues or other medical problems. Diagnosing schizophrenia may include:

  • Physical examination – Doctors look for physical problems that could be causing the symptoms and behaviors.
  • Psychiatric evaluation – During a psychiatric evaluation, behavioral health professionals ask about thoughts, moods, delusions, hallucinations, substance use, and risks for violence or suicide. This includes discussing personal and family history.
  • Using diagnostic criteria – Behavioral health professionals refer to the American Psychiatric Association’s guidelines for diagnosing schizophrenia.
  • Tests and screenings – Drug and alcohol screenings and other tests help rule out conditions with similar symptoms. Imaging tests like MRIs and CT scans may be recommended.

Schizophrenia Treatment Options

If you or a loved one need treatment for psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia, Mercy can help. We provide treatment services, second opinions and options for inpatient and outpatient care. Medication and therapy are common treatments for psychotic disorders. 

An important part of outpatient schizophrenia care involves reviewing the symptoms and social concerns caused by the disorder. This information is used to develop a complete treatment plan with outpatient services, including individual and group therapy as well as medication monitoring and management.

Counseling or talk therapy for psychotic disorders may include individual or family sessions and support groups. Most therapy is on an outpatient basis, but in severe cases where safety is a concern, hospitalization may be needed.


  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) - CBT’s goal-oriented approach is effective in treating schizophrenia when combined with counseling. The methods used in CBT help people develop coping strategies for symptoms that don’t respond to medicine.
  • Supportive therapy - This type of therapy helps with understanding experiences and supporting life with schizophrenia. It focuses on the present and helping those diagnosed with schizophrenia improve their day-to-day functioning.
  • Cognitive enhancement therapy (CET) - CET helps people with schizophrenia understand their triggers and learn to improve their memory, attention, social awareness and other cognitive skills.

Complementary Health Approaches

Integrative health therapies such as acupuncture, meditation, healing touch, massage and nutrition can also be part of treatment plans. For example, omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil have shown promise for treating and managing schizophrenia.

At Mercy, we believe proper diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions help people with schizophrenia live better lives. Mercy primary care providers and behavioral health professionals work closely together to coordinate care. We provide consultations, second opinions and a variety of options for ongoing treatment of psychotic disorders.

Lifelong care from a qualified behavioral health professional is needed for anyone diagnosed with schizophrenia.

View All Results View All Results