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Schizophrenia and Brief Psychotic Disorder

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How Common Is Brief Psychotic Disorder?

Brief psychotic disorder is uncommon. It generally first occurs in early adulthood (20s and 30s), and is more common in women than in men. People who have a personality disorder -- such as antisocial personality disorder or paranoid personality disorder -- are more prone to developing brief psychotic disorder.

How Is Brief Psychotic Disorder Diagnosed?

If symptoms of brief psychotic disorder are present, the doctor will perform a complete medical history and physical exam. Although there are no laboratory tests to specifically diagnose brief psychotic disorder, the doctor may use various tests -- such as brain imaging (e.g., MRI scans) or blood tests -- to rule out physical illness as the cause of the symptoms.

If the doctor finds no physical reason for the symptoms, he or she may refer the person to a psychiatrist or psychologist, mental health professionals who are trained to diagnose and treat mental illnesses. Psychiatrists and psychologists use specially designed interview and assessment tools to evaluate a person for a psychotic disorder. 

How Is Brief Psychotic Disorder Treated?

Treatment for brief psychotic disorder typically includes psychotherapy (a type of counseling) and/or medication. Hospitalization may be necessary if the symptoms are severe or if there is a risk that the person may harm him or herself, or others.

  • Medication: Antipsychotic drugs may be prescribed to decrease or eliminate the symptoms and end the brief psychotic disorder. Conventional antipsychotics include: Thorazine, Prolixin, Haldol, Navane, Stelazine, Trilafon, Loxapine, and Mellaril. Newer medications, called atypical antipsychotic drugs, include: Risperdal, Seroquel, Abilify, Geodon, and Zyprexa. Tranquilizers such as Ativan or Valium may be used if the person has a very high level of anxiety (nervousness) and/or problems sleeping.
  • Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy helps the person identify and cope with the situation or event that triggered the disorder.

What Is the Outlook for People With Brief Psychotic Disorder?

Brief psychotic disorder, by definition, lasts for less than one month, after which most people recover fully. Some people, however, may have recurrent episodes of psychotic symptoms, but this is rare.

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