What is a Psychotic Disorder?

Psychosis is the loss of contact with reality. A person experiencing psychosis can hear, see, or feel things that are not actually there (hallucination) or hold unusual beliefs that are typically not shared by others (delusion). Although psychosis  is predominantly a symptom of mental illness, it can also be caused by substance use or other medical conditions. There are many forms of psychotic disorders, but perhaps the most commonly known ones include schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. 


A diagnosis of schizophrenia is based on a combination of positive and negative symptoms. These symptoms have unique manifestations in each individual. Although the illness appears equally in men and women, it most often manifests in men in their late teens to early twenties. It tends to appear in women in their late twenties to early thirties. 

Positve Symptoms: These are symptoms that are "added" to a person's experience. These include delusions and hallucinations. Delusions are beliefs that an individual holds that are clearly false. Common delusions include the belief that others can read your mind or the belief that the TV or radio are sending signals specifically to you. Individuals experiencing delusions believe strongly in these ideas even when contradictory evidence is provided to them. 

Negative Symptoms: These symptoms are things that are "taken away" from a person's experience. Examples are lack of facial expression or inability to detect the facial expressions of others, inability to start or follow through with activies, lack of content in speech, inability to experience pleasure or maintain social interactions, and a lack of focus. 

Cognitive Symptoms: In addition to positve and negative symptoms, cognitive symptoms can occur. These pertain to one's thinking processes. People living with schizophrenia often struggle with executive functioning, memroy, and organizing their thoughts. Examples of these symptoms include disorganized or slowed thinking, difficulty understanding, and difficulty expressing thoughts or ideas. 

Schizoaffective Disorder
Schizoaffective Disorder is characterized by a mood disorder, such as mania or depression, in addition to the symptoms above. 

Depression: Depression is characterized by overwhelming saddness and a loss of interest in once pleasureable activites. Typically, individuals experiencing depression withdraw from their peers and experience severe hopelessness. In it's most sever form, depression can cause psychotic symptoms.

Mania: Mania is a period of time when a person's mood is extremely elevated or irritable. Individuals experiencing mania have poor impulse control, high energy, and require limited sleep. Severe mania can cause psychosis. 

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Department of Psychiatry | 355 W. 16th St., Suite 4800 | Indianapolis, IN 46202 | Ph: (317) 963-7288 | Fax: (317) 963-7313