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Psychotic illnesses & disorders

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Psychotic Illnesses

Having determined 'what psychosis is', the symptoms it involves & some of the possible causes; we now turn our attention to disorders that involve 'psychosis'. Two key aspects to be highlighted here are (1) the diagnosis of a particular disorder often relates to 'time frames' in relation to the existence of psychotic symptoms & (2) in some cases, a psychotic presentation, initially diagnosed as one type that might be expected to 'resolve' in time, may develop into a more permanent condition and therefore the requirement for re-assessment & a change in diagnosis; the most notable of these involves 'drug induced psychosis' that has been well known to  develop into 'Schizophrenia'. It is also important to keep in mind that the 'severity' of the psychosis does not necessarily translate to a more sinsiter, potentially untreatable & seriously permanent disorder or condition. Substance induced psychosis is, again, a perfect example of this; when the substance is withdrawn & after a relatively short time, the psychotic symptoms may disappear, after having been incredibly 'florid' initially. 

Below are some of the illnesses, disorders & conditions that involve psychosis or psychotic components in their presentation. Oft times, it is difficult to 'differentiate' between illnesses or disorders and the clinician may provide an alternative/s to the 'exclude' other illnesses & 'narrow the diagnosis', with the aim of establishing a more complete & accurate diagnosis. The reason is the determination of the most appropriate ultimate treatment for the individual involved. This will aid in the 'best possible' treatment; the greater likelihood of success in any intervention undertaken and the optimisation of the individual's quality of life. These are referred to as 'differential diagnoses'. An example of this would be that of 'Schizoaffective Disorder' which can have a similar presentation to  'Bipolar Disorder' - one may be considered the diagnosis; the other the differential diagnosis.

Assessments, mental state examinations, physical & psychological testing, observation, history & collateral information from others are some of the key factors in the establishment of any mental illness. This is necessary largely because of the individual sufferer's incapacity to provide lucid and accurate information themselves; by virtue of their psychotic symptoms.  


Conditions, illnesses, disorders that involve Psychosis

  • Schizophrenia - a 'life-long' illness with psychotic symptoms of varying intensity and psycho-social functioning of differing capacity. Hallucinations & delusions are prominent. These psychotic (positive features) need to have continued for a period of, at least six (6) months.


  • Schizoaffective Disorder - combines both 'mood' related and psychotic symptoms. Sometimes difficult to diagnosis because of its inherant similarity to both 'Schizophrenia' & 'Bipolar Disorder'.


  • Bipolar Disorder - both depressive & manic phases can result in 'psychotic symptoms'. Generally at the 'extreme' ends of the mood spectrum and similarly extreme in their presentation.


  • Major Depression, or more specifically, Major Depressive Episode (MDE) with Psychotic features (often referred to as 'Psychotic Depression')


  • Substance induced Psychosis - psychotic symptoms caused by substances, particularly illicit drugs such as 'methamphetamine' (speed), 'ecsatsy' (MDMA), 'marijuana', 'cocaine'; but also alcohol & certain prescription medications.


  • Brief Psychotic Disorder - the key word is 'brief'; with symptoms lasting from one (1) day to one (1) month. Often as a result of an identifiable stressor.


  • Organic Psychosis - includes many conditions, illnesses & disorders that affect the brain physically. This results in damage to the nerve pathways & disrupts neurotransmission & the neurotransmitters themselves; resulting in the development of psychotic symptoms. As such, it can often be considered as 'not a stand-alone illness', but rather a type of psychosis generated by another primary illness. A secondary psychosis.


  • Schizophreniform Disorder - A disorder or 'presentation' that resembles closely that of Schizophrenia, though the manifested psychotic symptoms are more than one (1) month, but less than six (6) months.


  • Postpartum Psychosis - psychotic symptoms evidenced after the birth of a child; generally considered around 4 weeks afterward. Much the same as 'post-natal depression' can occur, so too may psychosis. It may also be intrinsically linked to the 'depression' experienced by the mother.


  • Delusional Disorder - The predominant feature is that of 'delusions'; particularly delusions that superficially appear 'plausible'; therefore 'non-bizarre', as one would generally see with illnesses such as 'Schizophrenia'.


Perhaps one of the main purposes in a need to understand these illnesses and gain an overview of psychosis and Schizophrenia particularly, is related to the effect of certain illicit drugs and their short term, long term and, at times, permanent consequences.



Should you have concerns regarding any issue relating to your 'mental or physical well-being', 'Kick off' strongly recommend you seek professional assistance. This may entail contacting your GP or similar clinician (Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Counsellor etc.). You may also contact the appropriate agency or service that might assist you. Irrespective of your choice, ensure you see someone who might help. 

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Michael J. Salamon, Ph.D., FICPP
Senior Psychologist/Director
ADC Psychological Services, PLLC
1728 Broadway, Suite 1
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