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Psychotic Break Defined, Symptoms, Causes, How To Help Someone Experiencing Psychosis & Treatment Options

Visit the We Level Up FL behavioral recovery center & talk with faculty members. Tour the facility and see why we’re an established complex diagnosis treatment center. Visit patient community areas and lounges. There you can find outdoor areas for patients to recuperate and rebound.

What is Psychotic Break?

 it’s perceived as a harsh and abrupt disconnect or “break” from reality—though it is more accurately described as an episode of psychosis. Psychotic disorders are severe mental disorders.

Rather than seeing psychosis as something that out-of-the-blue one day “breaks” or “snaps,” it’s important to realize that possible warning signs can occur along a continuum of time. The problem is, people often don’t recognize psychosis until an individual reaches a point of crisis. [1]

The word psychosis is used to describe conditions that affect the mind, where there has been some loss of contact with reality. When someone becomes ill in this way it is called a psychotic break or episode. During a period of psychosis, a person’s thoughts and perceptions are disturbed and the individual may have difficulty understanding what is real and what is not. 

Symptoms of psychosis include delusions (false beliefs) and hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that others do not see or hear). Other symptoms include incoherent or nonsense speech, and behavior that is inappropriate for the situation. A person in a psychotic break may also experience depression, anxiety, sleep problems, social withdrawal, lack of motivation, and difficulty functioning overall. [2]

Psychotic Break
Early diagnosis and treatment for a psychotic break can help get the person’s life, family, and other relationships back on track as quickly as possible.

The terms “psychosis” and “psychopath” should not be confused.

Someone with psychosis has a short-term (acute) condition that, if treated, can often lead to a full recovery.

A psychopath is someone with an antisocial personality disorder, which means they:

  • Lack empathy – the capacity to understand how someone else feels
  • Are manipulative
  • Often have a total disregard for the consequences of their actions

People with antisocial personalities can sometimes pose a threat to others because they can be violent. Most people with psychosis are more likely to harm themselves than others.

Psychotic Break Symptoms

Someone who develops psychosis will have their own unique set of symptoms and experiences, according to their particular circumstances.

But in general, 3 main symptoms [3] are associated with a psychotic break:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Confused and disturbed thoughts


Hallucinations are where someone sees, hears, smells, tastes, or feels things that do not exist outside their mind.

  • Sight – seeing colours, shapes or people
  • Sounds – hearing voices or other sounds
  • Touch – feeling touched when there is nobody there
  • Smell – an odour that other people cannot smell
  • Taste – a taste when there is nothing in the mouth


A delusion is where a person has an unshakeable belief in something untrue.

A person with persecutory delusions may believe an individual or organization is making plans to hurt or kill them.

A person with grandiose delusions may believe they have power or authority. For example, they may think they’re the president of a country or they have the power to bring people back from the dead.

People who have a psychotic break are often unaware that their delusions or hallucinations are not real, which may lead them to feel frightened or distressed.

Psychotic Break
Someone with a brief psychotic disorder will probably get medication to treat psychotic symptoms and possibly also psychotherapy. Contact us today for help.

Confused and Disturbed Thoughts

People with psychosis sometimes have disturbed, confused, and disrupted patterns of thought. Signs of this include:

  • Rapid and constant speech
  • Disturbed speech – for example, they may switch from one topic to another mid-sentence
  • A sudden loss in their train of thought, resulting in an abrupt pause in conversation or activity

Postnatal Psychosis

Postnatal psychosis, also called puerperal psychosis, is a severe form of postnatal depression, a type of depression some women experience after having a baby.

It’s estimated postnatal psychosis affects around 1 in every 1,000 women who give birth. It most commonly occurs during the first few weeks after having a baby.

Postnatal psychosis is more likely to affect women who already have a mental health condition, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

As well as the symptoms of psychosis, symptoms of postnatal psychosis can also include changes in mood:

  • A high mood (mania) – for example, feeling elated, talking and thinking too much or too quickly
  • A low mood – for example, feeling sad, a lack of energy, loss of appetite, and trouble sleeping

Early Warning Signs

Typically, a person will show changes in their behavior before psychosis develops. The list below includes behavioral warning signs for psychosis.

  • Worrisome drop in grades or job performance
  • New trouble thinking clearly or concentrating
  • Suspiciousness, paranoid ideas or uneasiness with others
  • Withdrawing socially, spending a lot more time alone than usual
  • Unusual, overly intense new ideas, strange feelings or having no feelings at all
  • Decline in self-care or personal hygiene
  • Difficulty telling reality from fantasy
  • Confused speech or trouble communicating

Any one of these items by itself may not be significant, but someone with several of the items on the list should consult a mental health professional. A qualified psychologist, psychiatrist, or trained social worker will be able to make a diagnosis and help develop a treatment plan. Early treatment of psychosis increases the chance of a successful recovery. If you notice these changes in behavior and they begin to intensify or do not go away, it is important to seek help. [4]

What Causes A Psychotic Break?

There is no one specific cause of psychosis. Psychosis may be a symptom of a mental illness, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, but there are other causes, as well. Sleep deprivation, some general medical conditions, certain prescription medications, and the abuse of alcohol or other drugs, such as marijuana, can cause psychotic symptoms.

Psychotic Break
The earlier the treatment, the better the outcome.

Because there are many different causes of psychosis, it is important to see a qualified health care professional (e.g., psychologist, psychiatrist, or trained social worker) in order to receive a thorough assessment and accurate diagnosis. A mental illness, such as schizophrenia, is typically diagnosed by excluding all of these other causes of psychosis. [5]

How Can I Support Someone Who Is Experiencing Psychosis?

People with a first or recurrent psychotic break tend to present late for medical attention, and many do not present at all. Presentation is often initiated by others, not by patients themselves. Psychosis can also become apparent during a manic presentation, when patients act on their delusions in a public forum, or when they have the complications of substance misuse. Patients who experience intolerable symptoms (distressing delusions or voices; box 1) often seek medical help.

In emergency settings, family members’ concerns contrast with the patient’s apparent indifference. The highest risk of suicide in people with schizophrenia occurs during the first five years of illness (“the critical period”), and interventions are most fruitful during this time. Importantly, patients experiencing their first episode should quickly be given competent assessments and access to appropriate services.

If you think someone you know is experiencing psychosis, encourage the person to seek treatment as early as possible. Psychosis can be treated effectively, and early intervention increases the chance of a successful outcome. To find a qualified treatment program, contact your health care professional.

Treatment for a Psychotic Break

Treatment depends on the cause of the psychosis. It might involve drugs to control symptoms and talk therapy. Inpatient treatment or hospitalization is an option for serious cases where a person might be dangerous to himself or others.

With early diagnosis and appropriate treatment, it is possible to recover from psychosis.  Many people who receive early treatment never have another psychotic break. For other people, recovery means the ability to live a fulfilling and productive life, even if psychotic symptoms return sometimes.

Left untreated, psychotic symptoms can lead to disruptions in school and work, strained family relations, and separation from friends. The longer the symptoms go untreated, the greater the risk of additional problems. These problems can include substance abuse, going to the emergency department, being admitted to the hospital, having legal trouble, or becoming homeless.

Studies have shown that many people experiencing first-episode psychosis in the United States typically have symptoms for more than a year before receiving treatment. It is important to reduce this duration of untreated psychosis because people tend to do better when they receive effective treatment as early as possible.

How We Can Help

Whether this is your first and last treatment program, or even if you invested years of your time in and out of other therapy programs, we can lead you to feel at peace again. The We Level Up FL Behavriaol Center is unique in offering unparalleled evidence-based programs. Along with ultra modern therapeutic modalities to advance mental health treatment outcomes. Moreover, the We Level Up FL Mental Health Center also offers:

— Quick intake appointments. And in some cases where warranted, same-day admissions.

— Comfortable & safe settings with attentive staff in modern facilities with amenities to promote recovery.

— In-house Teams of specialists trained to deal with complex multi-diagnosis mental illness and its corresponding underlying triggers.

— Complimentary critical family and alumni programs so that you’ll have support while in treatment and beyond. Even after you leave.

— We accept most insurance and offer free benefits verification without any obligation – ever.

— Secondary co-occurring dual diagnosis treatment programs.

— Intensive residential inpatient treatment.

Visit the We Level Up FL behavioral recovery center & talk with faculty members. Tour the facility and see why we’re an established complex diagnosis treatment center. Visit patient community areas and lounges. There you can find outdoor areas for patients to recuperate and rebound. Witness for yourself how you too can feel at home at We Level Up FL’s behavioral center. The answers to your recovery, in large part, should include locating a reputed and well-qualified therapy program for your treatment.

If you have questions regarding your diagnosis or want licensed guidance or therapy for the psychotic break, please contact us.


[1] Understanding Psychotic Break – National Alliance on Mental Illness
[2] What is Psychosis? – National Institute of Mental Health
[3] Symptoms – Psychosis
[4-5] Questions & Answers about Psychosis – National Institute of Mental Health