Psychotic disorders significantly affect how the brain functions by altering thoughts, beliefs and perceptions. A person suffering from a psychotic disorder can, for example, hear voices or have the impression that others are manipulating his or her thoughts. He or she has a difficult time differentiating between perception and reality. During episodes of crisis, a person suffering from a psychotic disorder is said to lose touch with reality.
Symptoms of a psychotic disorder can appear over time or suddenly. The period in which a person shows these symptoms is called a “psychotic episode.”
A person with a psychotic disorder has difficulty functioning day-to-day.
Psychotic disorders affect about 3% of the population. They affect both children and adults regardless of ethnic origin, social and economic status and education. Psychotic disorders usually begin in adolescence or early adulthood.
The following are the main types of psychotic disorders:
The friends and family of a person suffering from a psychotic disorder may notice certain signs:
Symptoms may vary from person to person and change with time.
During psychotic episodes, the person may have:
Delusional ideas can cause the person anguish and anxiety (for example, he or she can experience permanent insecurity).
At the onset of a psychotic disorder, many people suffering from it pay little attention to symptoms and think they’ll go away by themselves. In doing so, they delay getting help and benefiting from treatment.
Do not wait until you are unable to perform your usual activities before getting help. A health-care professional can assess whether you have a psychotic disorder and, if so, what type of disorder it is. He or she can also assess if you have another health problem with similar symptoms. For a proper assessment, it could be necessary to conduct a physical exam or laboratory tests. You will be offered a treatment plan that is adapted to your needs.
Consult the Help and Resources section to find out about the support available to you.
If you have suicidal thoughts and fear for your safety or that of people around you, read Preventing Suicide. You will find further information on available help and resources.
Psychotic disorders are treatable. There are known treatments that allow people suffering from these illnesses to regain control of their lives and daily activities.
According to recent studies, the earlier a psychotic disorder is detected and treated, the greater the chances of recovering quickly. This way, a person can:
In most cases, psychotic disorders are treated effectively with one or a combination of several treatments and rehabilitation activities:
Experts generally recommend cognitive behavioural therapy to treat psychotic disorders. This form of psychotherapy aims to change the person’s thoughts and problematic behaviour and replace them with thoughts and responses that are appropriate to reality. It helps the person to understand the origin of the problem and find solutions.
Different medications can be used to treat symptoms and prevent new psychotic episodes. These medications are called “antipsychotics” (also called “neuroleptics”).
Antipsychotics, are designed to restore chemical balance in the brain. They rebalance:
These medications also lower anxiety and enable the person suffering to follow therapy and reduce the risk of experiencing a new psychotic episode.
If your doctor prescribes you medication, it is important that you carefully follow the instructions for taking them.
Even if you feel better, continue the treatments as prescribed in order to avoid having the symptoms occurring again.
If you experience undesirable side effects due to medication, discuss the matter with your doctor as soon as possible.The doctor may adjust your medication or recommend another medication.
Living with an untreated psychotic disorder can lead to many consequences for the person suffering from it as well as his or her family and friends. This could:
There are some simple methods that can help you feel better and reduce your risk of experiencing a new psychotic episode. To learn more, read Maintaining Good Mental Health.
Psychotic disorders do not always have a single cause. It is often a combination of several factors that leads to signs and symptoms. Here are some factors:
An increasing number of studies show that use of drugs such as cannabis, cocaine and amphetamines increase the risk of having a psychotic episode.
Psychotic disorders affect slightly more men than women. They usually appear between the ages of 15 and 35.
Psychotic disorders most often appear in adolescence due to changes that occur during this period, which affect:
When a person experiences a psychotic episode, people around him or her can be severely affected. They may feel destabilized and powerless. They need help to understand the psychotic disorder the person is suffering from and to better communicate with him or her. They could, for example:
Family and friends are in a good position to detect the signs of a psychotic episode in a person who has the disorder. Also, they are an important source of support for that person during his or her treatment.
Resources are available for help and to obtain more information about psychotic disorders:
You can also consult the Mental Health (Mental Illness) page for more available resources.
If you would like to help a loved one suffering from a mental illness, read Living with a Person Suffering from Mental Illness to learn how to help within your limits.
To receive care or services, or to find a psychotherapist with whom you feel comfortable, contact one of the following resources:
To find contact information for your family medicine clinic, your CISSS or your CIUSSS, go to Finding a Resource.
Last update: February 17, 2016 3:44 PM
The information on this website by no means replaces the advice of a health professional. If you have questions regarding your health, contact Info-Santé 8-1-1 or see a health professional.