What Is a Psychotic Disorder?
There is a spectrum of symptoms associated with psychosis, but generally speaking, psychosis is a condition that makes you feel (or appear to be) disconnected from the reality shared by most people, often but not always resulting in disruption to living a full, meaningful life. It can be a terrifying experience associated with uncertainty whether you can trust your own mind. Schizophrenia is one among a number of psychotic disorders and can be enduring and difficult to treat.
As with most severe mental disorders, psychotic disorders can occur alongside other psychiatric illnesses, such as anxiety and depression, and there are varying degrees of severity and impairment.
According to the current version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
, or DSM-5
—a reference commonly used by mental health professionals in the US—it’s possible you might experience such symptoms of psychotic disorders or schizophrenia as:
- Delusions or false beliefs
- Visual or auditory hallucinations—seeing or hearing something that isn’t there
- Disorganized speech, such as talking incoherently
- "Negative" symptoms such as flattening of emotional expression, lack of speech, lack of movement, lack of motivation or interest in pleasurable activities
If you are wondering “Do I have a psychotic disorder?” it is important to speak with a mental health professional, as there are several types and possible causes. Psychosis can be a symptom of other mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder; it can result from sleep deprivation or certain medical conditions; or it can be substance-induced, either by certain prescription medications or by the use of alcohol or other drugs.
How common are psychotic disorders? While not common, they do impact approximately 3% of adults in the US. Some people have a single episode, some have recurrent episodes, and some have ongoing psychotic symptoms. Early diagnosis and intervention can make a difference, and neuroleptic medications, along with psychotherapy, can be beneficial.
Our Treatment for Psychotic Disorders
At the Austen Riggs Center, we have successfully helped many patients with psychotic disorder symptoms. In fact, we are known as the place “where treatment-resistant patients become people taking charge of their lives.”
Psychotic disorders, like other mental illnesses, arise from a complex and highly personal interplay of biology, social stress, and psychological factors. At Riggs, the whole person is the focus of the treatment, not simply discrete symptoms. We work with you as a person with your own unique life story and your own problems and strengths.
Our treatment approach centers on intensive psychodynamic psychotherapy four times a week with a doctoral-level therapist, exploring your lived experiences to identify patterns and the potential impact of losses or other adverse experiences that may be outside your awareness but that influence your decision making. Through this deeper self-understanding, you can be freer to make better choices.
Since some psychotic disorders are chronic or recurrent, an important component of treatment is often coming to grips with what that means to you—and perhaps to your family members.
To augment regular psychotherapy sessions, medications usually are part of your treatment for psychotic disorders at Riggs. We have been trailblazers in developing what we call psychodynamic psychopharmacology, a way of using medications for their biochemical benefit, while also carefully attending to the impact of their meanings to the patient and to the doctor.
Family is often part of the social context in which symptoms of psychotic disorders may emerge and families with a member who has a psychotic disorder often suffer unique stresses while trying to understand one another. So an important part of every treatment at Riggs is family evaluation
—with family treatment offered when indicated.
In addition to therapy and medications, our open setting with its Therapeutic Community Program
mobilizes the powerful potential of social learning through interactions with peers—a profound opportunity to learn about aspects of ourselves that we cannot see but that others can help us see and address.