What Is a Psychotic Disorder? schizophrenia

Causes

Doctors don’t know the exact cause of psychotic disorders. Researchers believe that many things play a role. Some psychotic disorders tend to run in families, which means that the disorder may be partly inherited. Other things may also influence their development, including stress, drug abuse, and major life changes.

People with certain psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia, may also have problems in parts of the brain that control thinking, perception, and motivation.

In schizophrenia, experts believe that nerve cell receptors that work with a brain chemical called glutamate may not work properly in specific brain regions. That glitch may contribute to problems with thinking and perception.

These conditions usually first appear when a person is in his or her late teens, 20s, or 30s. They tend to affect men and women about equally.

Diagnosis

To diagnose a psychotic disorder, doctors will talk to the person, give them a checkup, and consider whether something else might be to blame for the symptoms. The person may get blood tests and brain imaging (such as MRI scans) to rule out physical illness or drug use like cocaine or LSD.

If the doctor finds no physical reason for the symptoms, he or she may refer the person to a psychiatrist or psychologist. These mental health professionals will use specially designed interview and assessment tools to decide whether the person has a psychotic disorder.

Treatment

Most psychotic disorders are treated with a combination of medications and psychotherapy, which is a type of counseling.

Medication: The main type of drug that doctors prescribe to treat psychotic disorders are “antipsychotics.” Although these medicines aren’t a cure, they are effective in managing the most troubling symptoms of psychotic disorders, such as delusions, hallucinations, and thinking problems.

Older antipsychotics include:

  • Chlorpromazine (Thorazine)
  • Fluphenazine (Prolixin)
  • Haloperidol (Haldol)
  • Loxapine (Loxitane)
  • Perphenazine (Trilafon)
  • Thioridazine (Mellaril)

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