Psychotic Disorders Diagnosis and Treatment

Learn about the various psychotic disorders, their causes, symptoms, diagnoses, and treatments.

The information presented on this page is an overview of the average evaluation of psychotic disorders and is offered here as a resource. At J. Flowers Health Institute, our evaluations and treatment plans are customized and tailored to each individual’s needs. While psychotic disorders can greatly vary, we specialize in providing a comprehensive team approach to your care. Our evaluations may include a psychiatric evaluation, a substance use disorder assessment, and a lifestyle assessment to help diagnose the root of your symptoms to provide the holistic care you deserve.  

If you would like to learn more about J. Flowers Health Institute, please do not hesitate to reach out.
We welcome any questions you have: 713.715.1618. 

What Are Psychotic Disorders?

Psychotic disorders are infrequent but often serious in nature. When you or a loved one encounters a psychotic disorder, knowing how to respond can be challenging. This extensive guide on psychotic disorders aims to educate you on the diagnosis and treatment of these severe mental health conditions.


Psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia, are serious mental disorders that involve delusions and hallucinations. For someone with a psychotic disorder, the individual essentially loses their ability to distinguish between what is real and what is not.

Psychotic Disorders Definition

The National Library of Medicine defines psychotic disorders as “severe mental disorders that cause abnormal thinking and perceptions.”

How Common Are Psychotic Disorders?

Psychosis, a symptom of a psychiatric illness or disorder, is significantly more common than most people realize. In the United States, about one hundred thousand young people struggle with psychosis per year.


Additionally, approximately three out of every one hundred people will have an episode of psychosis during their lifetime.

Types of Psychotic Disorders

There is a wide range of psychotic disorders, each with its own features, symptoms, and diagnostic criteria. The following sections will explore eight main types of psychotic disorders.


Schizophrenia impacts about twenty-three million people worldwide. Schizophrenia causes psychosis and disabilities throughout every aspect of a person’s life. 


In addition to adverse social, personal, and occupational consequences, this psychotic disorder is often met with stigma and discrimination. Schizophrenia can be effectively treated with medication, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), psychoeducation, and familial support.

Schizoaffective Disorder

Schizoaffective disorder is a rare mental health condition that exhibits similar symptoms of schizophrenia and mood disorders or depression


Genetics, brain chemistry, stress, and substance use are thought to contribute to the development of schizoaffective disorder. When a person is diagnosed with this disorder, they may be classified as bipolar or depressive type. 


Treatment generally involves medications such as antipsychotics, antidepressants, and mood stabilizers. Psychotherapy and self-management are effective methods for treating schizoaffective disorder.

Schizophreniform Disorder

Schizophreniform disorder falls under the spectrum of schizophrenia disorders. At times, mental health professionals will use schizophreniform as a provisional diagnosis while monitoring symptoms for a diagnosis of schizophrenia. 


According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), at least one of the following symptoms must be present for at least one month but no longer than six months. 


The clinical symptoms include hallucinations, disorganized speech, and delusions. Individuals with schizophreniform disorder do not display depressive, manic, or mixed manic-depressive features.

Brief Psychotic Disorder

A brief psychotic disorder is classified as a sudden and short-term display of psychotic behaviors following a stressful event. 


Triggering events can include the death of a loved one or a traumatic accident. Generally, this condition affects people ranging from twenty to forty years of age.

Delusional Disorder

As the name suggests, a delusional disorder is diagnosed when a person has difficulties recognizing reality. 


Although delusions are a common symptom of many psychotic disorders, delusional disorder occurs when delusions become the leading symptom. 


A person with this psychotic disorder will hang on to a false belief even when clear evidence or proof is displayed contradicting their belief. 


For example, someone with this disorder may believe a neighbor is planning to kill them or insert thoughts into their mind.

Substance-Induced Psychotic Disorder

There is a complex relationship between substance use and psychotic disorders. Individuals with psychotic disorders are significantly more likely to self-medicate with substances like drugs or alcohol. 


Unfortunately, substance use intoxication and withdrawal can result in psychosis symptoms. 


According to the DSM-5, substance-induced psychotic disorder can occur within one month of the last exposure to the specific substance. After one month, a diagnosis of psychosis and schizophrenia would be more appropriate.

Psychotic Disorder Due to a Medical Condition

Medical conditions can lead to a psychosis diagnosis. Common medical causes of psychotic disorders can include substance use disorder, brain diseases, dementia, HIV, certain prescription drugs, epilepsy, stroke, and brain tumors or cysts.


Paraphrenia is a psychosis diagnosis that presents similarly to paranoid schizophrenia. In contrast to paranoid schizophrenia, symptoms of paraphrenia involve significantly less personality deterioration and better rapport. Paraphrenia is not listed in the DSM-5’s psychotic disorders list and is rarely diagnosed.

Psychotic Disorders Causes and Risk Factors

The following sections will explore the three leading causes of psychotic disorders and the risk factors associated with psychotic disorders.

Causes of Psychotic Disorders

Nonetheless, three leading causes appear to influence the development of psychotic disorders.


Genetics are thought to contribute as a cause of psychotic disorders. However, research has found that just because an individual has a genetic predisposition does not necessarily mean they will develop a psychotic disorder.


Environmental Causes
Environmental causes of psychotic disorders can include childhood trauma, death, assault, and violence.


Other Possible Causes
Other possible causes of psychotic disorders may include substance use, physical illness, or mental health conditions.

Risk Factors

Risk factors for psychotic disorders can include environmental and biological factors. Family history, gender, brain development complications, exposure to drugs, and psychosis treatment can all pose an additional risk.10 

Diagnosis and Symptoms of Psychotic Disorders

Early diagnosis and treatment of psychotic disorder symptoms are time-sensitive. Delays in care can be life-changing and significantly alter the person’s likelihood of recovery. 


If you or someone you know struggles with psychosis, continue reading to learn about the symptoms and diagnosis process.

Psychotic Disorders Symptoms

Although symptoms of psychotic disorders vary, there are typically two main symptoms, hallucinations and delusions:
  • Hallucinations: When a person hallucinates, they feel, see, or hear things that aren’t there. For instance, an individual may experience auditory hallucinations in the form of hearing voices.
  • Delusions: Delusions are the second significant experience when a person is struggling with psychosis. A delusion can seem irrational, unlikely, and inconsistent with the person’s cultural beliefs. For example, beliefs that someone is controlling you or that you are controlling others with special powers.
  • Other Possible Symptoms: Gradual changes in thoughts or perceptions, withdrawal from loved ones, trouble thinking clearly, and an unusual decline in self-care are additional symptoms associated with psychosis.

Diagnosis of Psychosis

Mental health professionals, including psychiatrists, psychologists, and licensed therapists, use advanced assessment tools and clinical criteria to provide diagnoses and psychotic disorders treatment. The diagnosing process can include medical history, family history, lab testing, and a physical exam.

Psychotic Disorders Treatment

Psychotherapy and medications for psychotic disorders are the two primary treatments to help individuals recover. The following sections will provide additional information about therapy for psychotic disorders and medication.


Medication for psychotic disorders is used to treat a wide range of symptoms. Typically, antipsychotic agents are the leading medication used for schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders.11 


Psychotherapy or talk therapy is an effective method of treatment for psychosis and psychotic disorders. 


Types of psychotherapy can include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR), and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).12 

Get Help at J. Flowers Health Institute

J. Flowers Health Institute supports individuals and their loved ones with a wide range of mental health, wellness, and substance use disorder programs. 


For more information about the services available, do not hesitate to contact our team of experts. We’re here to empower you to lead the happy, healthy, and fulfilling life you deserve.

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