Brief Psychotic Disorder

  • Medical Author:
    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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What are causes and risk factors for brief psychotic disorder?

Except for those psychotic disorders that result from the use of a substance or a medical condition, specific causes for most psychotic disorders are not known. However, the interplay of genetic (familial), biological, environmental, and psychological factors is thought to be involved. We do not yet understand all of the causes and other issues involved, but current research is making steady progress toward elucidating and defining causes of brief psychotic disorder and other psychotic disorders.

In biological models of psychotic disorders, genetic predisposition, infectious agents, toxins, allergies, and disturbances in metabolism have all been researched. Psychotic disorders like brief psychotic disorder are known to run in families. For example, people who have a close family member who has suffered from an episode of brief psychosis are more likely to develop the disorder than people with no such family history. Toxins like marijuana increase the risk of developing psychosis. Some medications are thought to be associated with developing, while not directly triggering, this illness in some people. Studies have not seemed to find ethnic differences in developing brief psychotic disorder.

The current concept is that multiple genes are involved in the development of psychosis and that risk factors such as prenatal (intrauterine), perinatal (around the time of birth), and nonspecific stressors are involved in creating a disposition or vulnerability to develop the illness. Neurotransmitters (chemicals allowing the communication among nerve cells) have also been implicated in the development of psychotic disorders like brief psychotic disorder. The list of neurotransmitters under scrutiny is long, but special attention has been given to dopamine, serotonin, and glutamate.

One form of brief psychotic disorder referred to as brief reactive psychosis has been found to be triggered by very stressful experiences, like placement in solitary confinement. People who have a low income, are unemployed, or are living alone are at higher risk for developing brief psychotic disorder than those who do not have these experiences.

What are brief psychotic disorder symptoms and signs?

Signs and symptoms of brief psychotic disorder can include the following:

  • Delusions (beliefs that have no basis in reality)
  • Hallucinations (for example, hearing voices or other noises not based in reality; seeing or otherwise perceiving things not actually present in any way)
  • Disorganized speech (frequently off topic or nonsensical)
  • Severely disorganized or catatonic behavior
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/21/2016

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