You might have seen the movie A Beautiful Mind, the story of Professor John Nash played by Russell Crowe. It’s a wonderful visual exploration of psychosis, schizophrenia, and how it was treated in the 1940’s and 50’s. Despite the fact that psychosis is an experience that most people do not understand and as a result easily judge, the movie provided insight into the dangers and challenges of this extremely challenging symptom of teen psychotic disorders. Hopefully, the film inspired compassion for those who suffer from psychosis.
What is Psychosis?
It’s important to note that psychosis itself is not a disorder; it is one of the various symptoms of psychotic disorders. Psychosis an experience of the mind (psyche) characterized by the loss of contact with reality and including either hallucinations or delusions. A hallucination is a form of sensory experience that others cannot perceive. In other words, it could be an experience of hearing voices or seeing things that others don’t see. Delusions, on the other hand, are false beliefs that might happen by paranoia, such as “The FBI is after my family.” These false beliefs continue to exist despite evidence that disproves the belief. It is important to keep in mind that both delusions and hallucinations should be considered within a cultural context. For example, within the Native American culture, it is normal to hear the voice of a deceased relative.
If you are a parent or caregiver of a teenager, you might want to know a more about teen psychotic disorders, particularly because the first episode of psychosis typically occurs in mid to late adolescence and up to the early 30’s. The following list briefly describes the various disorders of the psyche, known as psychotic disorders:
The Different Types of Psychotic Disorders
Schizophrenia: Those with this illness experience delusions and hallucinations, which cause changes in behavior. These symptoms last longer than six months and usually with a decline in work, school, and social functioning.
Individuals with this illness have symptoms of both schizophrenia and a mood disorder, such as depression or bipolar disorder.
Those with this illness have symptoms of schizophrenia, but the symptoms last between one and six months.
Brief Psychotic Disorder
Individuals with this illness have sudden, short periods of psychotic behavior. Often in response to a very stressful event, such as a death in the family. Recovery is often quick, usually less than a month.
Those with this illness have a delusion (a false, fixed belief) involving real-life situations that could be true, such as being followed, being conspired against, or having a disease. These delusions persist for at least one month.
This illness occurs when a person develops delusions in the context of a relationship with another person who already has his or her own delusion(s).
Substance-induced Psychotic Disorder
This condition is caused by the use of or withdrawal from some substances, such as alcohol and crack cocaine, that may cause hallucinations, delusions, or confused speech.
Psychotic Disorder Due to a Medical Condition
Hallucinations, delusions, or other symptoms may be the result of another illness that affects brain function, such as a head injury or brain tumor.
This is a type of schizophrenia that starts late in life and occurs in the elderly population.
If you have any concern at all that your teen is prone to psychosis, the following are typical early warning signs to look for:
If you think that your child might have a form or variation of teen psychotic disorders, typical and early warning signs of psychosis are: a drop in grades or job performance, trouble thinking clearly or concentrating, suspiciousness or an uneasiness with others, decline in self-care or personal hygiene, spending a lot more time alone than usual, increased sensitivity to sights or sounds, mistaking noises for voices, unusual ideas, and having strange feelings or having no feelings at all.
Regardless of whether you see these warning signs or not, if you have any feeling or indication that your teen might be prone to psychosis, take him or her to see a psychologist. Do not wait to schedule a psychological evaluation for assessment. When you involve a mental health professional, you provide the safety and support your child needs.