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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.

By We Level Up FL Treatment Center | Editor Yamilla Francese | Clinically Reviewed By Lauren Barry, LMFT, MCAP, QS, Director of Quality Assurance | Editorial Policy | Research Policy | Last Updated: March 29, 2023

What is Psychotic Break?

Though a psychotic episode is a more precise description, it is viewed as a severe and abrupt rupture from reality. Psychotic disorders are severe mental disorders.

It’s vital to understand that potential warning indicators might appear along a time continuum rather than thinking of psychosis as something that “breaks” or “snaps” one day. The issue is that until a person is in a crisis, people frequently fail to detect psychosis. [1]

The term “psychosis” refers to mental illnesses where there has been a partial loss of contact with reality. This type of illness is referred to as a psychotic break or episode. A person’s ideas and perceptions are distorted while they are experiencing psychosis, and they could find it difficult to distinguish between what is genuine and what isn’t.

Delusions (false beliefs) and hallucinations are signs of psychosis (seeing or hearing things others do not see or hear). Additional signs include inappropriate behavior and speech that is illogical or incomprehensible. Also, a person going through a psychotic break could struggle with sadness, anxiety, sleep issues, social disengagement, lack of motivation, and general difficulties functioning. [2]

You shouldn’t mix up the phrases “psychosis” and “psychopath.”

A person suffering from psychosis has a temporary (acute) illness that, if treated, frequently results in 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.

Because they can be violent, people with antisocial personalities can occasionally be a threat to others. Psychosis patients are typically 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.


Those who experience hallucinations do so when they perceive objects that do not actually exist.

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


When someone has an unwavering belief in something false, they are suffering from a delusion.

A person suffering from persecutory delusions could think that someone or something is plotting to harm or kill them.

Someone with grandiose illusions could think they are in charge or have authority. For instance, someone might believe they are the leader of a nation or have the power to resurrect the deceased.

Individuals who experience a psychotic break frequently don’t realize that their hallucinations or delusions are false, which can make them feel anxious or agitated.

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.
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.
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.

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Psychotic Break Statistics

According to American statistics on psychosis, 3 out of every 100 citizens either have or will experience a psychotic episode at some point in their lives. Due to the decreased prevalence of psychotic disorders, this does not automatically imply that they will experience one. In actuality, less than 1% of Americans suffer from a psychotic condition.


1% of Americans suffer from a psychotic condition.

Source: National Institute on Mental Health


0.3% of the population is affected by Schizoaffective Disorder.

Source: National Alliance on Mental Illness


Around 0.18% of people have delusional disorder.

Source: National Institute of Mental Health

Confused and Disturbed Thoughts

Sometimes, the thought patterns of those who are experiencing psychosis are disrupted, confused, and abnormal. These are indications of it:

  • 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.

An estimated 1 in 1,000 women who give birth have postnatal psychosis. That usually happens in the initial weeks following a baby’s birth.

Postnatal psychosis is more likely to affect women with mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

Changes in mood can also be signs of postnatal psychosis, in addition to the symptoms of psychosis:

  • 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.

  • A 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.
  • A decline in self-care or personal hygiene.
  • Difficulty telling reality from fantasy.
  • Confused speech or trouble communicating.

These items alone may not be significant, but someone with several items on the list should consult a mental health professional. A qualified psychologist, psychiatrist, or trained social worker can make a diagnosis and help develop a treatment plan. Early treatment of psychosis increases the chance of a successful recovery. It is critical to get assistance if you see these behavioral changes and they start to get worse or persist. [4]

What Causes A Psychotic Break?

Psychosis can have a variety of causes. There are additional causes of psychosis besides mental illnesses like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Sleep deprivation, some general medical conditions, certain prescription medications, and abusing 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 essential to see a qualified healthcare professional (e.g., psychologist, psychiatrist, or trained social worker) for a thorough assessment and accurate diagnosis. When diagnosing a mental disease like schizophrenia, all of these other potential causes of psychosis are normally ruled out. [5]

How Can I Support Someone Who Is Experiencing Psychosis?

First-time or repeated psychotic break sufferers frequently delay seeking medical care, and many do not. Patients frequently do not initiate presentations; instead, others do. The presence of psychosis can also be detected during a manic episode when patients act out their delusions in front of others or when they experience side effects from substance abuse. Individuals frequently seek medical attention when they suffer unbearable symptoms (disturbing delusions or voices; box 1).

In emergency situations, the patient’s seeming apathy contrasts with the worries of the patient’s relatives. The first five years of schizophrenia are “the key period,” during which there is a higher risk of suicide and when interventions are most successful. It is crucial that patients suffering their first episode have competent assessments and access to the right services as soon as possible.

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

Treatment for a Psychotic Break

The cause of the psychosis determines the course of treatment. Talk therapy and medications to control symptoms may be used. Inpatient treatment or hospitalization is an option for severe cases where a person might be dangerous to himself or others.

Recovery from psychosis is achievable with prompt diagnosis and treatment. Many people who receive early treatment never have another psychotic break. Others define recovery as having the capacity to lead a happy and fruitful life, even if psychotic symptoms occasionally recur.

Psychotic symptoms that go untreated can cause problems at work and school, tension in families, and alienation 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 vital 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 make you feel at peace again. The We Level Up FL Behavioral 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 the following:

— 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 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 how you too can feel at home at We Level Up FL’s behavioral center. In large part, the answers to your recovery 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. What is the difference between psychotic break vs. nervous breakdown?

    If you are wondering, “what does a psychotic break look like?” or “what is the difference between psychotic break vs nervous breakdown?”, the answer is that “nervous breakdown” is a term that almost everyone is familiar with. It’s a phrase frequently used by people to express difficult life circumstances that they are unable to handle. A psychotic breakdown, on the other hand, is a mental health crisis that causes a person to become detached from reality.

  2. What is a psychotic break?

    If you are wondering, “what is the psychotic break definition?”, “what is the psychotic break meaning?”, “what’s a psychotic break”, “whats a psychotic break”, “what does a psychotic break feel like”, or “what is a psychotic break down?”, the answer is a psychotic break usually denotes the development of psychotic symptoms for the first time in a person or the abrupt onset of psychotic symptoms following a period of remission. Delusional thoughts and beliefs, auditory and visual hallucinations, and paranoia are only a few symptoms.

  3. What are the signs of a psychotic break?

    If you are wondering, “what are the symptoms of a psychotic break?”, “what are the signs of psychotic break?”, or ” what are the symptoms of psychotic break?”, the answer is but in general, hallucinations, delusions, and confused or disturbed thoughts are the three basic symptoms linked to a psychotic episode or psychotic breaks.

  4. What is a bipolar psychotic break?

    If you are wondering, “what is a psychotic break bipolar?”, the answer is an bout of extreme mania or depression combined with psychotic symptoms and hallucinations constitutes bipolar psychosis. The signs frequently coincide with a person’s mood. They can think they have exceptional abilities while they are manic. Such a delusion can cause careless or hazardous behavior.

  5. What are the psychotic break causes?

    If you are wondering, “what causes psychotic breaks?”, the answer is traumatic events, stress, or physical ailments like Parkinson’s disease, a brain tumor, or as a result of drug or alcohol abuse can also cause psychosis. The underlying cause may affect how frequently and how long a psychotic episode lasts.

  6. What is the common psychotic break age?

    Psychosis is frequently a symptom of a severe mental or physical illness. The majority of those affected are in their late teens to mid-20s. That happens more often than most people realize.

Search We Level Up FL Psychotic Break Resources

[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