Student Wellness Services

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Psychotic Disorders

Psychotic disorders are a less common type of mental health problem which causes people to lose touch with reality. This disorder inhibits a person’s ability to function day-to-day because of the severe changes in the way they feelthink, and behave:

  • Feelings
    • Depressed mood &/or mood swings
    • Increased anxiety & suspiciousness
    • Blunted, flat, or inappropriate emotion
    • Irrational, angry, or fearful
    • Decreased energy & motivation
  • Thinking
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Odd ideas & inability to turn off imagination
    • Inappropriate use of words
    • Difficulty controlling thoughts
    • Belief that yourself or others are acting differently
  • Behaviour
    • Loss of appetite
    • Difficulty sleeping
    • Withdrawal from people & activities
    • Weakness, pain or strange body sensations
    • Sudden need for excess
    • Changes in personal hygiene & work habits

There are many types of psychotic disorders including: schizophreniaschizo-affective disorderpsychotic depression, and substance-induced psychotic disorder.

What Causes Psychotic Disorders?

Since psychotic disorders are such a complex, mysterious illness, many factors are believed to influence its development including:

  • Family history
  • Brain chemicals – abnormal levels of dopamine in the brain
  • Stress – often a trigger to an episode among people who are vulnerable to the disorder
  • Other factors – head injury, brain development problems, etc.

Types of Psychotic Disorders


Because schizophrenia influences chemicals in the brain, people undergo changes in their mental functioning. Not everyone experiences schizophrenia in the same way; symptoms can develop over weeks, months, or years, occur in different combinations, and severities. Symptoms of schizophrenia are often described as either positive or negative.

    • Feelings, thoughts, or behaviours that are not normally present in a person but have been added as a result of the disorder.
    • Types of symptoms:
      • Delusions – fixed, false beliefs that feel real despite evidence to the contrary (e.g., believing you’re on a special mission or under surveillance)
      • Hallucinations –
    • Thoughts, feelings, or behaviours which are normally present but are now lost or reduced (e.g., loss of drive to wash or eat)

Schizoaffective Disorder

When someone suffers from a combination of schizophrenia and a mood disorder, such as clinical depression or bipolar disorder, a person will experience delusions or hallucinations during a manic episode.

Psychotic Depression

When depression because so intense it can cause psychotic symptoms such as delusions of severe physical illness.

Substance-Induced Psychotic Disorder

Sometimes the use or withdrawal of a substance can bring on hallucinations or delusions which appear quickly and disappear once the effect of the drug wears off (i.e., a few hours or days).