Different Types of Psychosis

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

Psychosis is an experience in which a person has a break with reality, usually involving delusions, hallucinations, or disordered thinking, among other symptoms. These disruptive thoughts and sensory experiences lead to a disconnection from reality and a struggle in distinguishing what is real from what isn't.

Approximately 3 in 100 people will experience an episode of psychosis in their lifetime, but not everyone experiences psychosis the same way. There are many types of psychosis and several conditions and events that can lead to it.

Psychosis is not a condition on its own. It is actually a symptom that is present in a variety of mental health disorders, or it can occur as a response to brain changes, traumatic events, injuries, or substance use.

Woman holds hugs herself and stares off to her left with gray background

FollowTheFlow / Getty Images

Definition of Psychosis

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and World Health Organization (WHO), psychosis is defined by the experience of hallucinations, delusions, or both. Individuals may have little or no insight into their symptoms.

Psychosis involves neuropsychiatric symptoms that lead to an impaired sense of reality. These symptoms may cause a disruption in a person's ability to function in everyday life, whether that's going to school, work, or maintaining relationships.

Types

There is no universally recognized system for classifying psychosis. There are different types of events or conditions that might cause psychosis.

Psychotic Disorders

Psychosis is a primary symptom of schizophrenia spectrum disorders. These disorders are included in the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)" category labeled "Schizophrenia Spectrum and Other Psychotic Disorders." 

Psychotic disorders in this category include:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Schizophreniform disorder
  • Schizoaffective disorder
  • Delusional disorder
  • Brief psychotic disorder
  • Unspecified schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorder
  • Other specified schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorder

Other Mental Health Conditions

Other mental health conditions, not within the DSM-5's psychotic disorder category, can also lead to psychosis.

These conditions include:

Organic Psychosis

Organic psychosis, also referred to as secondary psychosis, occurs due to an acquired change in brain function.

Causes of organic psychosis include:

Substance-Induced Psychosis

Psychosis can also be caused by substance or medication use. Alcohol, cannabis, and certain illicit drugs, including methamphetamine and cocaine, can cause psychosis.

Some prescription medications, including anxiolytics and sedatives among others, can cause psychosis. Withdrawal from medications can also lead to psychosis.

This type of psychosis is defined as "Substance/Medication-Induced Psychotic Disorder" in the DSM-5.

If you or a loved one are struggling with psychosis, and are at risk of self-harm or hurting others, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.


Signs and Symptoms

Psychosis is a symptom of other conditions, including psychotic disorders, like schizophrenia. A few specific symptoms must be present for someone to be said to be experiencing a psychotic episode.

Psychosis symptoms include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Disordered thinking

Hallucination

Hallucinations are defined as false sensory experiences or sensory experiences in the absence of a stimulus. Hallucinations are described depending on the sensory system, and can include auditory hallucinations or visual hallucinations.

Delusion

A delusion is defined as a fixed, false belief. Examples of common delusions include thinking that the television has special messages for you, believing others are plotting against you, believing someone (usually a celebrity) is in love with you, believing your thoughts are being controlled, and more.

Disordered Thinking

Disordered thinking, when severe to the point that it impairs communication, is another symptom of psychosis. Examples of disordered thinking include fast, racing thoughts, derailment, perseveration (uncontrollable repetitive thoughts), illogicality, tangentiality, and more.

Early Warning Signs and Symptoms

Sometimes other symptoms may present before a person experiences a full-blown psychotic episode. Knowing these early warning symptoms can help you get appropriate intervention to reduce the risks of psychosis.

Early warning signs of a psychotic disorder may include:

  • A drop in grades or job performance
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Increased isolation
  • Withdrawal from family, friends, and colleagues
  • Sudden decline in self-care and hygiene
  • Strong emotions or lack of emotions
  • Suspiciousness or distrust of others
  • Unusual thoughts or beliefs that are contradictory to what the majority of others believe

Diagnosing the Type

If you or someone you know experiences a psychotic episode or symptoms of psychosis, it is important to seek medical attention.

Sometimes, a person only experiences one psychotic episode. If this episode lasts longer than one day and shorter than one month, it may be diagnosed as a brief psychotic disorder.

Psychosis is always a symptom of a broader condition, which could include a psychotic disorder, another mental health condition, an organic cause, or a substance or medication-related cause.

Seeking a diagnosis can help you receive the correct treatment for your condition and alleviate other symptoms you might be experiencing. If you are experiencing psychosis as a result of medication or substances, your doctor can also work with you to find the best way to address substance use issues.

A Word From Verywell

It is important to talk to your primary care doctor or psychiatrist if you experience any symptoms of psychosis. Getting a diagnosis and treatment is vital so you can experience an improved quality of life.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Psychosis.

  2. National Institute of Mental Health. Fact sheet: First episode psychosis. Updated August, 2015.

  3. Arciniegas DB. PsychosisContinuum (Minneap Minn). 2015;21(3 Behavioral Neurology and Neuropsychiatry):715-736. doi:10.1212/01.CON.0000466662.89908.e7

  4. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th ed. Washington D.C.: 2013.

  5. Compean E, Hamner M. Posttraumatic stress disorder with secondary psychotic features (PTSD-SP): diagnostic and treatment challengesProg Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2019;88:265-275.

  6. Raza SK, Raza S. Postpartum psychosis. StatPearls. Updated 2020.

  7. Joyce EM. Organic psychosis: The pathobiology and treatment of delusions. CNS Neurosci Ther. 2018;24(7):598-603.

  8. Marcinkowska M, Śniecikowska J, Fajkis N, Paśko P, Franczyk W, Kołaczkowski M. Management of dementia-related psychosis, agitation and aggression: a review of the pharmacology and clinical effects of potential drug candidates. CNS Drugs. 2020;34(3):243-268. doi:10.1007/s40263-020-00707-7

  9. Medline Plus. Psychotic disorders.