Illnesses that affect a person’s ability to think clearly, make good judgments, respond emotionally, communicate effectively, understand reality and behave appropriately. Primary symptoms include: hallucinations; unusual sensory experiences or perceptions of things that are not really present; and delusions, false beliefs that do not change despite contrary evidence. At times people dealing with these symptoms have difficulty managing the activities of daily living. Other symptoms can include: disorganized or incoherent speech, confused thinking, slowed or odd movements, decreased interest in personal hygiene, decreased interest in usual activities, detached manner or inability to express emotion and paranoia.
It is not known how or why some people develop psychotic disorders but researchers believe they may run in families. Besides inheritance, research indicates that a chemical imbalance related to dopamine may be a factor in the development of psychotic disorders. Age of onset is generally between ages 18-30 and is often preceded by extreme stress, major life changes or drug abuse. It is not believed that these events cause the psychotic symptoms but rather “open the gates” for individuals already predisposed to psychotic illness.
Key to successful management of symptoms is early identification, diagnosis, medication management and supportive psychotherapy. It is often beneficial for family members of the affected person to get their own support as it is extremely difficult to see a loved one deal with these changes.