Psychotic disorders can affect anyone in society at any age, and can vary more widely than almost any physical or biological condition. Despite the stigma that may be attached to the word “psychotic”, psychotic disorders are not something to be ashamed of and, like any condition, can be treated more effectively the earlier they are caught. It is also important to draw the distinction between psychotic disorders and being a psychopath. Psychotic disorders refer to those that bring about drastic changes in personality, frame of mind, thought processes, functioning, and grasp on reality. A psychopath is a person who is incapable of empathising with other people, and may harm others without regret. The two terms are unrelated.
Knowing that, we can proceed to look at the different types of psychotic disorders, many of which are misunderstood by society at large.
This is one of the most well known psychotic disorders in terms of name, but many people hold a completely mistaken view on schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is often used interchangeably with the term “Split Personality Disorder”, even though they are two completely different things. Schizophrenia is in fact characterised largely by the patient’s inability to distinguish between objective reality and the creations of their own mind. This can manifest in a number of ways, such as delusional beliefs. A person suffering from schizophrenia may hold beliefs despite clear evidence to the contrary, such as believing they are in a relationship with someone, believing they are someone they’re not, or believing that an object is something else e.g. that a doll is a real baby.
Hallucinations are another common symptom, and are different to delusions because the patient believes they can see and hear something that doesn’t exist. For example, they may imagine that there is someone in the room when there is nobody there. Other symptoms of schizophrenia include social isolation, inability to think or function, and disorganised speech.
Another well-known but poorly-understood condition, bipolar disorder is often wrongly confused with depression. In reality, the two conditions are quite different. While depression is typically characterised by extended periods of apathy or misery, bipolar disorder is when a person swings drastically from one end of the mood spectrum to the other. While many of the symptoms for depression, such as irritability, loss of energy, or social withdrawal will appear in the depressive stages of a bipolar disorder, the other extreme is known as the “mania” stage, and is quite different. While in the mania stage, a person suffering from bipolar disorder will seem elated, energetic, talkative, and generally unstoppable. This makes bipolar disorder difficult to diagnose, as the symptoms are ever-changing. Furthermore, friends and family may mistake the upswing for a person recovering from a bad time in their life.
Psychotic depression is an extreme form of depression where the patient also experiences symptoms of psychosis, such as hallucinations or delusions. Someone who suffers from this will have more difficulty coping than most people with depression, as their hallucinations may indicate that they are worthless, unloved, have done wrong, and so on. There can be serious physical ramifications to psychotic depression, and about a quarter of people hospitalised for depression will have psychotic depression
This is quite similar to psychotic depression, but with a few distinct differences. Schizoaffective disorder is when a person has schizophrenia as well as either bipolar disorder or depression. It can be more extreme than psychotic depression, but the main difference is that in schizoaffective disorder, the schizophrenia remains present constantly, with the mood disorder coming and going. With psychotic depression, the symptoms of psychosis are brought on during the depressed periods.