Brief Psychotic Disorder

What is brief psychotic disorder?

After losing her husband in an accident, Neena was devastated and was not ready to accept the fact. She became numb, did not cry, and had a dazed look on her face. Neena would sit in one position for hours together and would not move or speak. This condition persisted for almost two weeks but she slowly recovered from the condition and continued with her life.

This fictional narrative has been constructed to aid the understanding of this disorder by placing it in a real life situation.

Brief psychotic disorder is a short-term illness in which there is a sudden onset of psychotic symptoms that may include delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech or behavior, or catatonic (being motionless or sitting still for long hours) behavior.

People may experience a state of shock or disillusion when they experience a severe, stressful or tragic event such as an accident, death of a family member, major financial loss, etc. The person may lose touch with reality and can be affected by brief psychosis. This condition lasts for a few days after which the person recovers completely.

Note: Even a person who is healthy and who does not have any history of mental illness can be affected by this disorder for a short period of time.

What are the symptoms of brief psychotic disorder?

Symptoms of brief psychotic disorder include the following:

  1. Disorganized speech or not willing to speak to anyone

  2. Delusion (false perception about what has happened)

  3. Hallucination (hearing or seeing things that are not real)

  4. Illogical, confused thoughts and actions

  5. Major change in normal behavior

  6. Staying still or sitting in a particular posture for long hours (catatonia)

  7. Emotional turmoil or confusion

In case you observe any of these above symptoms in a family member or friend, you can help as a caregiver. 

What causes brief psychotic disorder?

Any major stressful situation or a traumatic event can trigger this condition. Doctors have observed that this disorder is more common among people with poorly developed coping skills or personality disorder. Sometimes, women with postpartum depression may be affected with brief psychotic disorder.

Getting treatment for brief psychotic disorder

Most often, psychotic symptoms disappear in a week or two.

If the symptoms persist for a longer duration or if they become severe, then it is recommended to see a mental health expert. Special tests and interviews are conducted to evaluate the severity of the condition.

Therapy, counseling, medication or a combination of these treatments is used to treat the disorder. However, if symptoms such as self-harm are observed, then the person needs to be hospitalized until recovery. Counseling is recommended even after recovery to avoid the possibility of a relapse.

Caring for someone with brief psychotic disorder

Family and friends play a major role in providing support and care for the person, and to help them cope with the condition and recover quickly.

If you know someone who has experienced a tragic event and is affected with brief psychotic disorder, you can provide support as a caregiver and help the person recover.

To help a friend or relative, you can:

  • Learn about brief psychotic disorder because knowledge helps to understand and handle the difficult situation better.

  • Offer emotional support, speak to the person and listen to them with empathy. This will help you observe and identify any symptoms that may trigger acute psychosis.

  • Take your friend or relative out for walks if possible.

  • Try not to let them be by themselves (but do not impose yourself)

  • Be watchful about comments that indicate self-harm and immediately report it to the therapist or doctor. 

Types of brief psychotic disorder

Brief psychotic disorders have been related with borderline personality disorders and schizophrenic disorders.

  • Brief psychotic disorder with an obvious stressor:Occurs when a person reacts to anymajor stress or a tragic event such as the death of a close relative or spouse, physical assault, robbery, a major accident, natural disaster, etc. The person usually recovers within a few weeks and treatment may not be required.

  • Brief psychotic disorder without an obvious stressor:A person experiences a psychotic episode for no apparent reason. The psychotic episode persists for a short duration and usually disappears within a month.

  • Brief psychotic disorder with postpartum depression:Mothers having postpartum depression may be affected and it may persist for months.