A brief psychotic disorder (BPD) is a psychiatric condition that may occur suddenly and for a brief period of time, accompanied by symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, and confusion. As the name suggests, these symptoms may last for a day or for as long as a month. The symptoms may feel realistic enough to the patient to the extent that they may trigger violent behaviour or increase their risk of committing suicide.
What is a brief psychotic disorder?
A loss of a loved one or a traumatic accident can be a stressor for people suffering from a brief psychotic disorder. In this disorder, a person suffers from short-term psychotic behaviour such as hallucinations or delusions. These episodes are short, typically last less than a month, and usually get resolved on their own. The person may or may not be aware of their behaviour during these episodes.
BPD symptoms may seem like those of other psychotic disorders like schizophrenia and schizophreniform disorder, but BPD symptoms vary in duration. These symptoms are usually sudden and intense and are resolved within a month. The symptoms of schizophrenia last at least six months, and those of schizophreniform disorder last between one to six months.
BPD may also resemble drug-induced psychosis (DIP), but the difference is BPD is not triggered due to medications or substance abuse.
Here’s an easy guide to understanding the basic forms of brief psychotic disorder.
What are the types of brief psychotic disorders?
There are three basic types of BPD:
- Brief psychotic disorder with obvious stressors (also known as brief reactive psychosis): It’s usually a consequence of a disturbing event, trauma, or stress, such as the death of a loved one, an accident, or a natural disaster.
- Brief psychotic disorder without obvious stressors: With this type of BPD, there is no apparent trauma or stress that triggers it.
- Brief psychotic disorder with postpartum onset: This form can affect women, usually around a month after delivering a baby.
What are the signs and symptoms of the brief psychotic disorder?
Signs and symptoms usually begin suddenly and might last for 1 month or less. A person with BPD may experience any of the following:
- Delusional episodes: During this episode, one may believe that something is true or right when it is not. These false beliefs do not go away even if there is proof that they are untrue. One may even believe someone is constantly following, looking, or manipulating their mind. They may also feel there is something wrong with how their body functions.
- Disoriented speech: Here, the person affected usually talks senselessly, uses made-up words and utters disturbing sounds, and may suddenly switch between subjects with no logical connection between them.
- Disorganized behaviour: The person may behave differently than normal, wear different clothes, get mood swings, and have trouble remembering things.
- Hallucinations: The person may imagine things that are not there. Auditory hallucinations are one of the most common types of hallucinations. In this, one may even believe someone is telling them to do things or threatening them.
When to see a doctor?
A person should immediately consult a doctor if they are experiencing any signs and symptoms as mentioned above. Also, watch out for these signs:
- Hallucinations where the person might hear voices, see things that are not there or feel sensations on the skin without any apparent contact with their body.
- Delusions or false beliefs that someone refuses to give up, even in the face of facts.
- Disorganized thinking
- Changes in eating or sleeping habits, energy level, or weight
What causes the brief psychotic disorder?
Experts are not entirely sure as to what causes the brief psychotic disorder. There may be a genetic link since the condition is more common in people who have a family history of psychotic or mood disorders such as depression or bipolar disorder.
In major cases, traumatic events or severe stress trigger BPD.
How to diagnose the disorder?
If someone has the above mentioned symptoms, the expert will need to go through the medical and psychiatric history of the patient, may conduct a brief physical exam, and obtain blood tests or urine tests to rule out other causes such as substance abuse.
Sometimes a doctor may also ask for a brain imaging study (such as an MRI) if they think there may be an abnormality in the brain.
If there is no obvious physical explanation for the symptoms, the doctor may refer the person to a psychiatrist or a psychologist. Mental health professionals use specially designed interview and assessment tools to evaluate a person for a psychotic disorder.
What are the treatment options for brief psychotic disorder?
There are various treatment options available for brief psychotic disorder. Some of them are as follows:
- Antipsychotics: This may decrease psychotic symptoms or severe agitation. These medicines may also help stop symptoms from returning.
- Antianxiety medicines: May assist in decreasing anxiety and help the patient feel calm and relaxed.
- Mood stabilizers: Assist in controlling the erratic mood changes among patients.
- Sedative: may help the patient stay calm and relaxed.
- Cognitive behaviour therapy: The therapy helps a person learn to cope with the symptoms. It might also help bring positive changes in their behaviour.
- Compliance therapy: The healthcare provider will help the person find ways to make it easier to undergo the treatments. The person will learn about their medicines and understand why they need to take them on time.
- Family interventions: These are meetings that may be held with the person’s family or with one person at a time. In these meetings, the family learns about the condition and can voice their concerns. The family is taught ways to help the person manage the disorder. They may also be given special training.
- Video recorded self-observation: Recording their behaviour allows the patient to see themselves from other’s visual perspective. This can help the patient be more aware of how they act and help them manage the illness better.
What are the preventive measures for brief psychotic disorder?
Brief psychotic disorder is not preventable, but early diagnosis, proper care, and treatment can help put the person and their family’s life back on track.
Brief psychotic disorder can be a scary and a challenging condition, both for the individual who experiences it and their loved ones. Fortunately, help, support, and stabilization exist, especially in trauma-related situations. If a person is struggling with this disorder, it is advisable to get them treated at the earliest.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Can this disorder occur more than once in a person’s life?
The recurrence of this disorder is rare.
What if the symptoms last for more than six months?
If the symptoms last for more than six months, it is likely that the person is suffering from schizophrenia.
Can brief psychotic disorder be prevented?
No, but early diagnosis and treatments help the patient and the family to start leading a normal life as soon as possible.