What Is Brief Psychotic Disorder? How To Deal With It

By Sarah Fader

Updated December 17, 2018

Reviewer Stephanie Deaver, LCSW

There are over 200 types of mental health disorders out there. Some are disorders that affect people long-term, and others do not. Getting diagnosed is the first step in understanding what you are dealing with. But, once you are diagnosed it's important to understand what your diagnosis means to you.

What Is Brief Psychotic Disorder?

In the simplest explanation, the brief psychotic disorder is when a person experiences symptoms of the psychotic disorder, but only for a brief time. These symptoms include:

  • Having visual or auditory hallucinations.
  • Acting delusional (incorrect beliefs about things that are happening or not happening).
  • Incoherent speech.
  • Behavior that is out of character for what is the person's normal behavior.

They may experience all of the symptoms, or only one. The main factor that separates brief psychotic disorder from psychotic disorder is the amount of time that the person experiences the related symptoms. The symptoms of brief psychotic disorder last no longer than one month, where a person that suffers from psychotic disorder has ongoing symptoms.

Types Of Brief Psychotic Disorder

While the symptoms are the same, there are three different types of brief psychotic disorder. There are only slight variances between each type:

  1. Brief psychotic disorder with an obvious stressor - This is also known as brief reactive psychosis. When a person experiences a traumatic event such as the death of a loved one, abuse, or living through a natural disaster, they make go through a short period of having symptoms of the brief psychotic disorder. In this case, the reason that the person is suffering is easy to determine.
  2. Brief psychotic disorder with no obvious stressor - As the name describes, this is when there is no obvious reason why someone is experiencing psychotic symptoms, but they last no longer than one month.
  3. Brief psychotic disorder with postpartum onset - As the name indicates this form of the psychotic disorder is brought on after a woman has given birth. It usually occurs within the first month after the baby is born.

Who Is At Risk?

The numbers vary from one study to the next, but around 1 to 4 people per 100,000 will experience an episode of brief psychotic disorder at some point in their life. Unfortunately, there is no way to completely predict who will experience an episode and who will not. It is believed that a mix of genetics, psychological risk factors, and the environment a person lives in could increase a person's chances.

Some factors could be indicators of a potential problem. It has been found that most episodes happen when a person is between 20 and 50 years old. Gender appears to play a role as more women than men experience episodes of psychosis. It also appears to run in families. So, a history of psychosis within a family increases the risk of other family members.

Individuals that suffer from other mental health disorders are at a higher risk of experiencing an episode of the brief psychotic disorder. There have also been links between individuals that are unemployed or have a low income and are living along. Lastly, the use of marijuana increases the chance of experiencing symptoms of psychosis.

While there are no clear answers, there is ongoing research to determine exactly what the true causes are. This will help identify those who might suffer from it in the future.

How Is It diagnosed?

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If experience any of the symptoms that are related to brief psychotic disorder it is important that you seek professional help. Proper diagnosis of mental health disorders is critical to getting the right treatment. A physical exam and some lab tests can help doctors to rule out other medical issues that could be causing these symptoms. Professionals will be looking to rule out things like anxiety disorder, psychotic disorder, depression, and panic attacks. Unfortunately, there are no lab tests or easy diagnosis of the disorder. A psychiatric evaluation will be used to confirm the diagnosis.

I've Been Diagnosed With Brief Psychotic Disorder - Now What?

A mental health diagnosis is something to take seriously, even brief psychotic disorder. When suffering from the disorder, people can also suffer from other mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. This can lead to acts of violence or possibly suicide. That is why seeking proper treatment is crucial to proper recovery. If you do not have a physician that you are comfortable speaking to about your symptoms you can talk to a licensed professional online through Better Help.

Treatment Options

Here's the good news, the prognosis of the brief psychotic disorder is better than the diagnosis of other mental health disorders. The symptoms go away within a month, but that is also the tricky part. You should not wait for a month to seek help. It is important that you seek help immediately if you experience any symptoms of psychosis. You do not want to wait around to see if your symptoms end. This is not something that you should attempt to self-diagnose. There are treatment options that can help you while you are experiencing symptoms of the disorder.

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The two main forms of treatment for the disorder include medication and cognitive behavioral psychotherapy. The latter helps patients to understand and work through how their thoughts are affecting their behavior. This can help patients that have been through a traumatic time sort through their feelings that are leading to psychotic behavior.

When it comes to medication, there has been recent progress made in the type of medicine prescribed. In the beginning, the drugs that were prescribed were known as neuroleptics. These types of medicines could help with paranoia and hallucinations, but they had other adverse side effects. Many people taking them suffered from neurologic side effects like muscle twitches, tremors, and stiffness. The newer medications have side effects like weight gain, drowsiness, and changes in blood sugar and cholesterol. While these are not symptoms people would want to experience either, they have less of an impact than the neurological side effects. Typically, you will only need to take medicine for a short time since the disorder last no more than a month.

What Are The Main Concerns

While experiencing symptoms associated with brief psychotic disorder, there are a few other concerns to watch for. It has been found that people suffering from this disorder are more likely to also experience depression. This is important to talk to a professional about, like those at Better Help, in order to receive proper treatment for these symptoms as well. Like with other mental health issues, the symptoms can also lead to violent behavior and possibly suicide.

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For the majority of people, this will be a one time experience with the disorder, but it can be an indicator of future problems. For some, this episode is the start of a larger mental health issue such as schizophrenia. Others will see symptoms disappear, but reoccur when they experience times of high stress.

Will It Come Back?

The main question that people have after experiencing brief psychotic disorder is "will it come back?". Most likely you will not have another episode. While there is no guarantee, there are a few ways to predict if you could have another episode. One indicator to look at is how well you performed in life before experiencing any issues. The better you were able to function before being diagnosed the higher the chance that you will have a good recovery.

Studies found that women typically experience a better recovery from the disorder than men do. There is no real explanation for this, but there are also more women that suffer from the disorder than men.

Possible Prevention

If you have a history of mental illness in your family or have experienced brief psychotic disorder before, you should consider your options for prevention. There are no guarantees of preventing the disorder, but cognitive behavioral therapy can help avoid it. This therapy will only help in prevention if you are practicing it before experiencing symptoms. It is not something that you can wait to do until you notice symptoms and have it work quickly. It is important to understand the way your thoughts impact your feelings and behavior. By controlling your thoughts, you will be able to have more control over your actions.

Family can play an important role in recovery and prevention of further problems. Having a strong support system is important when dealing with mental health disorders. Family members should know what symptoms to watch for and what the disorder looks like in your life. They can help watch for any symptoms that you may experience to help catch them before they go too far.

If a woman experiences brief psychotic disorder after giving birth, they will want to discuss their options with a licensed professional before any future pregnancies. In some studies, women have found that delivering preterm in future pregnancies helps them to avoid symptoms of the disorder. In some cases with extreme symptoms, it is better for women to avoid future pregnancies.

Get The Help You Need

Most likely you are overwhelmed or concerned if you are experiencing symptoms of the brief psychotic disorder. It is normal to feel that way. You need to take these symptoms seriously and seek help immediately. When diagnosed with the brief psychotic disorder the good news is your symptoms will go away. But, you shouldn't use that as an excuse not to get the care you need. This is a serious condition that could lead to you hurting yourself or someone else. A licensed professional can help you get the treatment that you need.

The right treatment can help eliminate or minimize the symptoms that you do experience. Contact a professional today with all of your questions on your brief psychotic disorder diagnosis, or if you think you are experiencing symptoms.


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