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.

How do physicians diagnose brief psychotic disorder?

Since there is no specific test, like an X-ray, that can accurately diagnose a person with brief psychotic disorder, people who are concerned that they may suffer from this illness might consider taking a self-test, either an online or printable, like the Yale PRIME Screen, the Youth Psychosis at-Risk Test, the Schizophrenia Test, or the Early Psychosis Indicator.

To determine if a person suffers from brief psychotic disorder, health-care professionals will conduct a mental-health interview that looks for any history and the presence of symptoms, also called diagnostic criteria, that were previously described. As with any mental-health evaluation, the practitioner will usually seek to rule out other mental-health conditions, including mood problems like depression and anxiety disorders, panic attacks or generalized anxiety, psychotic disorders other than brief psychotic disorder, like schizophrenia, schizotypal personality disorder, delusional disorder, schizophreniform disorder, schizoaffective disorder, or catatonia. In addition to guarding against having brief psychotic disorder misdiagnosed as another psychotic disorder or delirium (sudden confusion due to a medical or mental illness), the mental-health examiner may assess that while some symptoms (traits) of the disorder are present, the person does not fully qualify for the diagnosis. Since brief psychotic disorder can co-occur with a life-threatening condition like delirium, the presence of those disorders will also likely be explored.

The process of determining the presence of brief psychotic disorder will also likely include the professional trying to ensure that the person does not have a medical problem that may cause emotional symptoms that are similar to those of brief psychotic disorder. The mental-health professional will therefore often ask when the person has most recently had a physical examination, comprehensive blood testing, and any other tests that may be necessary to ensure that the individual is not suffering from a medical illness instead of or along with their emotional symptoms. Since the mental-health interview is used in making the diagnosis and the significant impact that having brief psychotic disorder or a related diagnosis can have on the person's life, it is of great importance that the practitioner conducts a comprehensive assessment.

In assessing for brief psychotic disorder, the evaluator will likely inquire if the individual's symptoms occur for the required one-day to one-month time period and are not better explained by a mood disorder (like major depression or bipolar disorder with psychotic features), another psychotic disorder, or is the result of the physical effects of a substance or other medical illness. The diagnosis should not be assigned if the person's symptoms are part of and sanctioned by the person's culture. Formerly, the term brief reactive psychosis was used to describe the situation in which brief psychotic disorder occurs in reaction to events that most people would feel are very stressful (for example, trauma).

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/21/2016

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