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Brief Psychotic Disorder

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 3, 2022.

What is brief psychotic disorder?

Brief psychotic disorder is a short-term mental illness where you have psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions.

What causes brief psychotic disorder?

Brief psychotic disorder may be caused by trauma or a stressful event, such as an accident or the death of a loved one. In many cases, the cause may not be known.

What increases my risk of brief psychotic disorder?

  • Family history: Your risk of psychotic illness is increased if you have a family member with a mental illness.
  • Postpartum: Women who have given birth in the last 4 weeks are at higher risk.
  • Stress: This can be stress from your work or family situation that builds up over time. This can also be stress from a major event, such as the loss of a loved one or a physical attack.

What are the signs and symptoms of brief psychotic disorder?

Signs and symptoms usually start suddenly and last for 1 month or less. You may have any of the following:

  • Delusions: You may believe that something is true or right when it is not. These false beliefs do not go away even if there is proof that they are not true. You may believe someone is spying on you, after you, or controlling your mind. You may also believe there is something wrong with how your body works.
  • Disordered speech: You may not make sense when you talk. You may make up words or sounds and randomly move from one subject to another.
  • Disorganized behavior: You may behave differently than you normally do. You may wear clothing that is not normal for you. You may have mood swings. You may also have trouble remembering things.
  • Hallucinations: You may see, hear, smell, feel, or taste things that are not really there. The most common hallucination is hearing voices. You may believe someone is telling you to do things or threatening you.

How is brief psychotic disorder diagnosed?

  • A psychiatric assessment can help healthcare providers find the best treatment for you. You may be asked about past trauma or abuse, or if you have seen other people being harmed. Tell providers if you have thoughts about hurting yourself or others. You may be asked about alcohol or drug use. Tell providers if you have people in your life who support you.

How is brief psychotic disorder treated?

  • Medicines:
    • Antipsychotics: These help decrease psychotic symptoms or severe agitation. These medicines may also help stop your symptoms from coming back.
    • Anxiety medicine may help you feel calm and relaxed.
    • Mood stabilizers: These help control quick changes in your mood that happen for no reason.
    • A sedative is medicine to help you stay calm and relaxed.
  • Therapy:
    • Cognitive behavior therapy: During this therapy, you will learn how to cope with your symptoms. This may help you to change your behavior.
    • Compliance therapy: Your healthcare provider will help you find ways to make it easier to do your treatments. You may be taught about your medicine and why you need to take it on time. You may also get telephone calls and letters to help you remember your scheduled visits with your healthcare provider.
    • Family interventions: These are meetings that may be done with all of your family together or with one person at a time. In these meetings, your family learns about your condition and can talk about their concerns. Your family may learn ways they can help you manage your disease. They may also be given special training to help them cope with your condition.
    • Video recorded self-observation: Recording your behavior allows you to see yourself as others see you. This can help you be more aware of how you act and help you understand your illness better.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

How can I help manage my brief psychotic disorder?

The following may help decrease your symptoms and prevent brief psychotic disorder from coming back:

  • Manage stress: Stress may slow healing and cause illness. Learn ways to relax, such as deep breathing or meditation.
  • Avoid alcohol: Alcohol can cause sleep problems, make you depressed, and increase stress.
  • Get plenty of exercise: Talk to your healthcare provider about the best exercise plan for you. Exercise can decrease stress, lower your blood pressure, and improve your health.
  • Take your medicines as directed: Do not stop taking your medicines until you talk with your healthcare provider. You can have serious health problems if you take too much medicine.
  • Know the warning signs and get help as soon as possible:
    • You have changes in how you think, feel, and see things.
    • You become more nervous and upset, but do not know why.
    • You are not doing well at work or school.
    • You have little or no interest in your friends.

What are the risks of brief psychotic disorder?

Medicines used to treat brief psychotic disorder may cause an allergic response. Some medicines may take a few weeks to work. Others may change the way you eat and sleep, cause weight gain, and make you anxious. You may have eye and movement problems from certain medicines. You may also feel shaky, dizzy, or have sexual problems because of the medicines. You may become depressed or have thoughts of hurting or killing yourself or others.

Where can I find support and more information?

  • American Psychiatric Association
    1000 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 1825
    Arlington , VA 22209
    Phone: 1- 703 - 907-7300
    Phone: 1- 888 - 357-7924
    Web Address:
  • National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Office of Science Policy, Planning, and Communications
    6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 6200, MSC 9663
    Bethesda , MD 20892-9663
    Phone: 1- 301 - 443-4513
    Phone: 1- 866 - 615-6464
    Web Address:

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You think your medicines are not helping.
  • You have new or worsening symptoms.
  • You have muscle spasms, stiffness, or trouble walking.
  • You cannot sleep or you sleep more than usual.
  • You are depressed.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You cannot move your eyes.
  • You feel very upset or threaten someone.
  • You feel like hurting or killing yourself or others.
  • You suddenly have trouble breathing.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

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