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Overview of Brief Psychotic Disorders

Some people can experience psychotic symptoms that come on very suddenly and then resolve within a matter of days or weeks, often in response to some kind of stressful life event, and without much in the way of associated Depressive or Manic symptoms (ie. affective symptoms).

These sorts of brief psychotic episodes are probably different from the other principle Psychotic Disorders, namely Schizophrenia and Delusional Disorder, which tend to develop gradually and then to persist for long periods of time. These brief episodes should also be distinguished from episodes of Major Depression or Mania (in both Major Depressive Disorder and Bipolar Disorder), where psychotic symptoms can also occur suddenly and for a limited time period, but always in association with symptoms of Depression or Mania.

While most mental health professionals recognize that these sorts of brief, non-affective psychotic disorders exist, there has been difficulty in the field to arrive at a consensus for a definition of these disorders. This has hampered efforts to conduct research on these conditions, and as a result there is still much that is unknown and confusing about brief psychotic disorders.

Currently, the different diagnostic terms used to describe brief psychotic disorders are:

Not surprisingly, there is considerable overlap among these different diagnostic constructs, and many people with a brief psychotic episode could likely meet the diagnostic criteria for more than one of these.

These brief psychotic disorders all share a similar course, where the symptoms tend to resolve and the individual has good chances of regaining a healthy level of functioning. However, a large percentage of these individuals will eventually be diagnosed with Schizophrenia or a Mood Disorder. As such, clinicians will often view these brief psychotic disorders as a temporary diagnosis, with the expectation that the patient's true condition will become clearer over time.

The causes of these disorders are not fully understood, but effective treatments exist.

 

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Brief Psychotic Disorder