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with Tarra Bates-Duford, Ph.D., MFT

Recognizing a Psychotic Break: 16 Warning Signs

Psychosis is a clinical term often used to describe a family of serious mental health disorders. Unfortunately, many people who suffer from serious mental health concerns may also struggle with psychotic issues as well. Discussing the topic of mental illness and psychosis can be challenging for persons both with and without the disorder. The term psychosis for many people carries many negative connotations, such as, a “break from reality”, the belief that the individual suffering from psychosis is no longer “present”, and he or she is no longer in control of himself or herself.

Although, the signs of a psychotic break can look very different from person to person, some potential warning signs include:

·         Auditory hallucinations

·         Visual hallucinations

·         Olfactory hallucinations

·         Tactile hallucinations

·         Gustatory hallucinations

·         Difficulty understanding and processing what was heard

·         Elevated anxiety

·         Insomnia

·         Physical immobility

·         Hypochondria

·         Agitation

·         Paranoid behavior

·         Disorganized speech, such as switching topics erratically

·         Suicidal thoughts or ideations

·         Depressed mood

·         Marked changes in ADL’s

Psychotic Disorders Include:

·         Schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a chronic and severe mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves

·         Bipolar Disorder. Bipolar disorder, formerly called manic depression, is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings that include emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression).

·         Delusional Disorder. Delusional disorder, previously called paranoid disorder, is a type of serious mental illness called a “psychosis” in which a person cannot tell what is real from what is imagined.

·         Organic or drug-induced psychosis. This includes psychotic symptoms caused by illness, injury or withdrawal from certain addictive substances such as alcohol or amphetamines

Notably, it is important that mental health providers educate persons suffering from psychosis as well as the suffers support system that psychosis doesn’t happen “out of the blue”, there is no sudden break or departure from reality, warning signs can occur along a continuum of time. Regrettably, most people typically recognize the sign of psychosis only after a crisis has developed.  

There is no single cause of psychosis, however, common causes Include:

·         Alcohol, drug or steroidal abuse

·         Diseases that affect the brain or immunity levels such as, brain tumors or cysts, HIV, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, and Huntington’s disease

·         Physical illness

·         Epilepsy

·         Stroke

·         Chemical imbalances in the brain

·         Intense Stress

·         Post-traumatic stress

·         Genetics

Being supportive, understanding, accepting, and persistent in helping a loved one find the right treatment can make a world of difference for someone experiencing psychosis. Treat for psychosis can include individual psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, family intervention, medication, support groups, or a combination of more than one treatment approach.


Recognizing a Psychotic Break: 16 Warning Signs

Bates-Duford, Ph.D., LMFT

My name is Dr. Tarra Bates-Duford PhD, LMFT, CRS, CMFSW, BCPC I have a PhD in forensic Psychology specializing in familial dysfunctions and traumatic experience. I work with individuals and families struggling with familial dysfunctions, trauma, rape, and incest. I also have a masters in Marriage, Couples, & Family therapy. I am a certified relationship specialist with American Psychotherapy Association (#15221). I have more than 15 years in the field of mental health, relationships, and behavioral sciences.

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APA Reference
Bates-Duford, T. (2017). Recognizing a Psychotic Break: 16 Warning Signs. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 1, 2020, from


Last updated: 25 May 2017
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