yes, therapy helps!
Brief psychotic disorder: symptoms, causes and treatment

Brief psychotic disorder: symptoms, causes and treatment

June 17, 2024

Thanks to the media, film and television in the collective imagination of society has been established, more or less clearly, what is a psychotic disorder and what happens to the person who suffers. However, these beliefs are plagued with stereotypes that can lead to confusion.

Psychotic disorders or psychoses are those mental disorders in which the person experiences a damage in the ability to think, to react emotionally and to interpret reality. However, this disorder may appear briefly in previously healthy people, classifying itself as a brief psychotic disorder .

  • Related article: "The 5 differences between psychosis and schizophrenia"

What is brief psychotic disorder?

Brief psychotic disorder is a state during which the person experiences a series of psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions or disorganized speech and thinking among many others.

However, unlike other psychotic disorders, brief psychotic disorder appears suddenly and unexpectedly in presumably healthy people. The duration of these episodes is very short, and can last between a day and a month at the most. Also, once completed, the person can recover completely and without the need for this incident to happen again.

As previously mentioned, what distinguishes a brief psychotic disorder is that it does not have to be associated with any other psychotic disorder, nor with the effect of drugs or any organic disease such as a brain tumor.

Although it is considered a disorder of low prevalence, that is, rare, several studies have managed to confirm that usually appears in people between 30 and 50 years and that the probability of affecting women is twice as high as in men.

  • Maybe you're interested: "The 8 types of Psychotic Disorders"

Types of brief psychotic disorder

Three subtypes of brief psychotic disorders have been detected, which can be classified according to the cause of this.

1. Following an identifiable stressor

This subtype of disorder it is also known as brief reactive psychosis and it is generated by the appearance of a traumatic, stressful or emotionally significant event; such as surviving an accident or catastrophe, abuse or death of a close person.

2. Unidentifiable stressor

In this subtype it is not possible to identify or specify the reason that caused the brief psychotic disorder in the person.

Following the birth

According to some studies, 1 out of 10000 women experience an episode of brief psychotic disorder shortly after the moment of delivery. Specifically, the largest number of cases have been registered approximately four weeks after this .

  • Maybe you're interested: "Postpartum or postpartum psychosis: causes, symptoms and treatment


The psychotic disorder brief buy much of your symptoms with many other psychotic disorders, however to be classified as such it is necessary that these symptoms only remain between a day and a month . In the event that they last longer in time, or more than six months, the possibility that it is any other disorder will be considered.

The symptomatology present in the brief psychotic disorder ranges from delusions, hallucinations or disorientation, to catatonic behavior and alterations in attention and memory.

1. Delusions

Delusions make up a series of beliefs that, although the patient believes firmly in them, do not have any kind of logical basis, nor can they be demonstrated in any way.

Although there are different types of delusions, in brief psychotic disorder delusions of persecution, grandeur and reference delusions predominate .

2. Hallucinations

Also, another of the most common symptoms within psychotic disorders are hallucinations. In these, the person perceives in a real way facts or images that have never taken place and in those who completely believe not perceiving them as hallucinations.

  • Related article: "Hallucinations: definition, causes, and symptoms"

3. Disorganized thinking and language

While the episode of psychosis lasts, the person abandons any logical relation of their thoughts, appearing the ideas in a chaotic and disorganized way.

As a result of this disorganized thinking, the patient experiences alterations in the processes of attention and memory, as well as great difficulties in language and speech .

Some examples of these symptoms are incessantly talking about the same subject, continuously going from one topic to another, and presenting a speech full of inconsistencies.

Four.Catatonic behavior

Within the catatonic behavior can be included a large number of motor alterations . These alterations include paralysis or immobility, hyperactivity, restlessness or excitement or mutism. Likewise, stereotyped movements, echolalia or echopraxia are also included.

5. Other symptoms

In addition to all the symptoms mentioned above, there are a number of behaviors or behaviors directly related to this type of disorder. These signs include:

  • Disorientation .
  • Behaviors or strange behaviors.
  • Important changes in daily habits.
  • Neglecting hygiene and personal care.
  • Impossibility of making decisions.


Although the specific causes of this disorder have not yet been established, it is hypothesized that this is the result of the union of various factors, both hereditary, biological, environmental and psychological .

As for the hereditary components of the brief psychotic disorder, it has been observed that it is repeated within the same family. Also, the fact of Having a family history of psychosis has also been established as a risk factor .

However, having a family history of both psychosis and this disorder is not a sufficient condition to suffer it. For this, it is necessary that it is a hereditary factor that is accompanied by factors or stressful contexts that facilitate the appearance of this.

On the other hand and according to some psychodynamic currents, the appearance of the brief psychotic disorder would have its origin in an inability of the person to manage their survival mechanisms. This means that the patient does not have the capacity to withstand or overcome a highly stressful event so the disorder emerges as an escape mechanism.


Through a thorough psychological evaluation, the clinician should check if the patient has suffered any of the situations or circumstances that may trigger the brief psychotic disorder, such as physical, psychological or sexual abuse, experience of some traumatic event , presence of a crime, etc.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), this disorder is classified as a short-term disorder not related to any type of mood disorder, substance use or a psychotic disorder.

In order to make a reliable diagnosis of the brief psychotic disorder, the clinician must ensure that the person meets the following requirements:

  • Presence of one or more psychotic symptoms (delusions, hallucinations, negative symptomatology, etc.).
  • Duration of symptoms between one day and one month after which the person has recovered completely.
  • The symptomatology is not explained by the presence of other psychotic disorders or by the consumption of toxic substances.

Treatment and prognosis

Since the disorder must remit in less than a month there is no established treatment for this , being very similar to the intervention that is performed in acute episodes of schizophrenia.

However, it is necessary to increase and maintain the precautions during the duration of the episode given that the person may become self-harming, harm others or even commit suicide.

Also, in some cases the appearance of a brief psychotic disorder is a warning signal that the person may be developing any other type of serious mental disorder, so it is vital to make a thorough observation of the patient's evolution.

Psychosis - causes, symptoms, and treatment explained (June 2024).

Similar Articles