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Psychotic Disorder

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Aug 31, 2022.

What is a psychotic disorder?

A psychotic disorder is a medical condition that causes hallucinations and delusions. Schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder are examples of psychotic disorders.

What are the signs and symptoms of a psychotic disorder?

You may have hallucinations and delusions. Hallucinations are seeing, hearing, tasting, or feeling things that are not real. Delusions are beliefs that something is real, 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, chasing after you, or controlling your mind. You may also believe there is something wrong with how your body works. You may also have any of the following:

  • Feeling scared or confused
  • Speaking quickly, loudly, or slowly, or saying things that do not make sense
  • Feeling restless or irritable
  • Quick changes in your mood
  • Avoiding others or acting nervous around others
  • Trouble concentrating or thinking clearly
  • Thoughts of self-harm, suicide, or your own death
  • Poor school or work performance
  • Poor personal hygiene

What causes or increases my risk for a psychotic disorder?

The cause of a psychotic disorder may not be known. A psychotic disorder may happen with other mental illnesses, such as borderline personality disorder or bipolar disorder. Your risk for a psychotic disorder may be higher with any of the following:

  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Stressful events such as the death of a loved one, abuse, parents' divorce, or loss of a friendship
  • Certain medicines, such as steroids, antidepressants, or digoxin
  • Parents, siblings, or other family members with a history of a psychotic disorder
  • Medical conditions such as Parkinson's disease, HIV, stroke, or epilepsy
  • Infection, a brain injury, or a brain tumor

How is a psychotic disorder diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and how long you have had them. He or she will ask if you have any family members with a mental illness. Tell your healthcare provider about any stressful events in your life. He or she may ask about any other health conditions or medicines you take. You may need blood tests to get information about your overall health. CT or MRI pictures may show problems in your brain that can cause a psychotic disorder.

How is a psychotic disorder treated?

A psychotic disorder can be treated. Treatment can help decrease your symptoms and make you feel better. You may need any of the following:

  • Medicines may be given to decrease your symptoms. You may need 1 or more medicines. You may need to take your medicine for several weeks before you begin to feel better. Tell your healthcare provider about any side effects or problems you have with your medicines. The type or amount of medicine may need to be changed.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps you create more realistic, appropriate thoughts about yourself and your behaviors. You may work individually with a mental health provider. CBT may also be done with a group of people that have a psychotic disorder. CBT may be combined with medicines that help treat your psychotic disorder.
  • Family counseling can help you and your family work together to understand and manage your illness.

What can I do to manage my symptoms?

  • Get support. It may be difficult to cope with your illness. You may feel lonely, anxious, or depressed. It may help to join a support group. A support group lets you talk with others who have a mental illness. For information and more support visit:
    • National Alliance on Mental Illness
      3803 N. Fairfax Dr., Suite 100
      Arlington , VA 22203
      Phone: 1- 703 - 524-7600
      Phone: 1- 800 - 950-6264
      Web Address:
  • Do not drink alcohol or use illegal drugs. Alcohol and illegal drugs can make your symptoms worse. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently drink alcohol or use illegal drugs and need help to quit.
  • Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause lung damage. They can also decrease how well your medicine works. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise can help improve your mood and decrease symptoms. Ask about the best exercise plan for you.
  • Manage your stress. Stress can make your condition worse. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about practicing mindfulness and deep breathing exercises to help decrease your stress. You may learn other ways to manage stress during therapy.

Call 911 if:

  • You feel like you could harm yourself or someone else.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • Your symptoms do not improve.
  • You cannot make it to your next appointment.
  • You have new symptoms.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

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

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.