Do You Really Know What A Psychotic Break Is?

December 15, 2016

Psychotic breaks are when a person experiences a serious alteration in their perception of reality. We must properly understand and treat them in order to improve the quality of life of the person suffering.

Throughout this article, we will offer you information about its main features, what they may be caused by, and some suggestions for managing them.

What are psychotic breaks and what are their main features?

Psychotic breaks are characterized by the affected person having abnormal ideas and perceptions as well as a loss of contact with reality, together with changes in their behavior. A separation from reality takes place temporarily.

The person who demonstrates a psychotic break sees an altered reality, and thus is not able to function normally in their environment. The main features of psychotic breaks are:

  • Delusions or alterations in the content of their thoughts due to interpretations or distortions of reality.
  • Hallucinations. Perception of an object, image, or outside stimulus that is not real.
  • Unorganized thought and/or behavior.
  • Unkempt physical appearance.
  • Social isolation.

Its duration can vary from days to weeks, possibly requiring hospitalization. However, with proper medical and psychological treatment, the person will become stable again, thus being able to return to their daily routine.

What causes psychotic breaks?

Psychotic breaks can be brought on by different causes like the excessive consumption of alcohol or other drugs, certain medicines, organic or biological reasons, serious depression, strong emotional impacts, or suffering from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or borderline personality disorder, among other things.

Confusion concerning psychotic breaks

There is a certain confusion about what constitutes a psychotic break and other mental disorders. Many people believe that it is the same thing as schizophrenia. We could say that schizophrenia is a type of long-term psychotic disorder, while the period of time that a psychotic break lasts is much shorter, occurring over a short period.

Borderline personality disorder or bipolar disorder can include the appearance of a psychotic break.  However, psychotic breaks can also be caused by a single episode, with no association to other mental illnesses, such as in a highly stressful situation for a person, e.g. a traffic accident.

What is the treatment for a psychotic break?

People who are at risk to suffer a psychotic break or who have suffered an episode need pharmacological treatment (antipsychotics) and they need to go through psychotherapy. There even tends to be success by having family interventions, as this is a way of bringing the family closer to the person’s experience, providing them with information, tools, and support.

Many specialists in this area confirm that it is recommendable for society to be highly sensitized and conscious of the situation.

Not using stigmatizing language, offering continuous help, reminding the person to keep taking their medication and of the fact that are feel loved, valued, respected, and supported can help affected people more than we may think.

Psychiatrist Roberto Fernández personally supports Assertive Community Therapy to treat people who demonstrate episodes of psychotic breaks, because with the application of it, the progress of the illness is improved and the recurrence processes are diminished.

Assertive Community Treatment is a program that can be applied from the very first appearance of a psychotic break. It is based on orienting the person who is suffering from a psychotic break, providing them with constant care and active follow-up on their development. It is an integrated community work aimed at all those around the patient with a focus on intervention at home.