Psychotic disorders are characterized by dysregulation of thought processes. In particular, schizophrenia has hallmark symptoms of delusions – which are false beliefs – and hallucinations – which are hearing and/or seeing sensory information which is not actually present and is not apparent to others. Schizoaffective disorder is a disorder in which, as its name implies, individuals have features of both schizophrenia and mood disorders.1 Typically, psychotic disorders are treated with antipsychotic medications and some forms of psychosocial interventions.2

What is psychosis? Psychosis is a condition in which the functioning of a person’s brain is severely disrupted, affecting that person’s thoughts, perceptions, emotions and behavior. Typically, a person experiencing psychosis will have disordered thoughts and speech, and difficulty in distinguishing reality. Three in every 100 people will experience a psychotic episode. One of these people will never experience another episode. Like any other illness, psychosis is treatable and can happen to anyone. What are the symptoms? Psychotic symptoms can occur in an isolated episode or as part of an ongoing diagnosed illness such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression or schizoaffective disorder.

What causes psychosis? Psychosis is caused by changes in the chemical environment in the brain. Our understanding of these changes is still limited, but is improving.


  1. Sadock BJ, Sadock VA. Kaplan & Sadock’s Synopsis of Psychiatry: BehavioralSciences/Clinical Psychiatry (10th ed.). Philadelphia, PA, Lippincott, Williams, & Wilkins;2007.
  2. Andreasen NC, Black DW. Introductory Textbook of Psychiatry. (4th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc., 2006

More detail on mental health/mental illnesses may be found at: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/index.shtml or www.samhsa.gov/

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