Mental health has become less stigmatized in recent years, but there are still many misconceptions about psychotic disorders. Let’s explore what causes psychosis, as well as the true signs of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
What are Psychotic Disorders?
Simply defined, a psychotic disorder is a condition that distorts someone’s reality, making it difficult for them to distinguish what is real from what is not. Increased dopamine levels in the brain cause an individual to have a different sensory experience than those around them. These brain health conditions can come in the form of bipolar disorder, a primary mood disorder that can lead to psychosis, and schizophrenia, a primary psychotic disorder.
Schizophrenia is characterized by negative and positive symptoms. Negative symptoms are harder to identify and usually occur during prodrome – the stage that occurs right before a psychosis episode.
Negative symptoms may include:
- Isolation and withdrawal
- Lack of self-care and motivation
- Diminished facial expressions
- Alogia, or lack of speech
Positive symptoms, on the other hand, are more easily identifiable, outward signs of expression. These may include:
- Disorganized speech and thought
- Talking to self
What Causes Psychosis?
People can experience psychosis from a variety of external causes, but it can also be genetic. Here are a few examples of stressors that may trigger the onset of either brief or chronic psychosis:
- Substance Abuse
- Medical conditions
- Lack of sleep
Onset and Duration of Psychotic Disorders
Psychosis can come in the form of brief episodes or long-term behavioral changes that cause irreversible brain damage. There’s no true cure for bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, but it is possible to recover from them and live a normal life. However, these conditions are typically chronic. You could be stable for many years, then encounter a stressor that leads to a relapse of symptoms.
This is why it’s so important to visit your doctor as soon as you feel something “off”. The earlier you receive the treatment you need, the easier it will be to feel like yourself again.
Schizophrenia symptoms begin around the transitional years in a young person’s life – 18 to 25. It is uncommon for a person older than age 40 to be diagnosed.
Signs of bipolar disorder may begin in two separate stages of life. The first occurs around the same time as schizophrenia, in the late teens and early 20s. It may also start to appear from age 45 to 55.
Treatment for Psychotic Disorders
The stigma surrounding psychotic disorders has changed greatly over the years. Patients went from no treatment available, to rather questionable treatment methods, to old-school medications with notable side effects.
We’ve come a long way in terms of research, therapy and medication. Psychiatrists now use a combination of both science-based methods (like medicine) and emotional approaches (like cognitive behavioral therapy). Having a sense of understanding and respect for those living with these conditions has also made recovery a real possibility for them.
You can’t prevent a psychotic disorder, especially if it’s genetic, but you can avoid possible triggers.
Just like any physical condition, working out, eating well and limiting your substance use can play a positive role in improving your mental health.
If you or a loved one’s brain does experience psychosis, you should treat it like any other part of the body and get help. With the right medication, therapy and support from your Valleywise Health community, you — or your friends and family members — can feel confident in getting back to a more normal life.