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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
Lifelong care from a qualified behavioral health professional is needed for anyone diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Learn about schizophrenia diagnosis and treatment options here.
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