Brief psychotic disorder: symptoms, causes and treatment

Thanks to the media, cinema and television, the collective imagination of society has established, more or less clearly, what constitutes a psychotic disorder and what happens to the person who suffers from it. However, these beliefs are full of stereotypes that can be confusing.

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

    What is a brief psychotic disorder?

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

    However, unlike other psychotic disorders, a 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 most. Also, once concluded, the person can rest completely and without the need to repeat this incident.

    As discussed above, what distinguishes a brief psychotic disorder is that it does not have to be associated with any other psychotic disorder, as well as the effect of drugs or any organic condition such as a brain tumor.

    Although it is considered a low prevalence, i.e. infrequent, disorder, several studies have shown that Usually occurs in people between the ages of 30 and 50 and that the probability of affecting women is twice as high as that of men.

      Types of brief psychotic disorder

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

      1. Following an identifiable stressor

      This disorder subtype it is also known as brief reactive psychosis and is generated by the onset of a traumatic, stressful or high impact emotional event; like surviving an accident or disaster, abuse or the death of a loved one.

      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.

      After childbirth

      According to some research, 1 in 10,000 women suffers from a brief episode of psychotic disorder soon after giving birth. Specifically, the highest number of cases were recorded about four weeks later.


        Brief psychotic disorder will buy you a lot of its symptoms along with many other psychotic disorders, but for it to be classified as such these symptoms should only last from a day to a month. In the event that they last longer, or more than six months, the possibility of any other disorder will be considered.

        Symptoms present in Brief Psychotic Disorder range from delusions, hallucinations or disorientation, to catatonic behavior, and impairments in attention and memory.

        1. Delirium

        Delusions are a series of beliefs which, although the patient strongly believes in them, have no logical basis and cannot be demonstrated in any way.

        Although there are several types of delusions, in brief psychotic disorder illusions of persecution, greatness and illusions of reference predominate.

        2. Hallucinations

        In addition, hallucinations are another of the most common symptoms of psychotic disorders. In these, the person perceives in a real way facts or images that never happened and in which he completely believes that he does not perceive as hallucinations.

          3. Disorganized thinking and language

          During the episode of psychosis, the person abandons all logical relation of his thoughts, the ideas appearing in a chaotic and disorganized way.

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

          Some examples of these symptoms talk about the same subject over and over, move continuously from one subject to another, and present a discourse full of inconsistencies.

          4. Catatonic behavior

          In catatonic behavior, they can include a large number of motor disorders. These alterations include paralysis or immobility, hyperactivity, restlessness or excitement, or mutism. Stereotypical movements, echolalia or ecopraxia are also included.

          5. Other symptoms

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

          • disorientation.
          • Strange behaviors or behaviors.
          • Significant changes in daily habits.
          • Neglecting hygiene and personal care.
          • Inability to make decisions.

          the causes

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

          With regard to the hereditary components of the brief psychotic disorder, it has been observed that it is generally repeated within the same family. Likewise, the fact having a family history of psychosis has also been established as a risk factor.

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

          On the other hand and according to certain psychodynamic currents, the appearance of the brief psychotic disorder would have its origin in an inability of the person to manage his survival mechanisms. That means the patient does not have the capacity to resist or overcome a very stressful event then the disorder appears as a mechanism of escape.


          Through a thorough psychological assessment, the clinician should verify whether the patient has suffered from any of the situations or circumstances that may trigger the brief psychotic disorder, such as physical, psychological or sexual abuse, victim of a 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 unrelated to any type of mood disorder, substance use, or psychotic disorder.

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

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

          Treatment and prognosis

          Since the disorder should go away in less than a month there is no established treatment for this, Being very similar to the intervention performed in acute episodes of schizophrenia.

          However, you must increase and maintain precautions for the duration of the episode because the person may self-harm, hurt others or even commit suicide.

          Also, sometimes the appearance of a brief psychotic disorder is a warning sign that the person may develop any other type of severe mental disorder, so it is vital to make a careful observation of the patient’s progress.

          Leave a Comment