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What Is a Psychotic Break?

What Is a Psychotic Break?
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Psychotic Break or Psychosis

A psychotic break, also known as psychosis, is a disordered mental state characterized by a lack of contact with reality. When someone is experiencing a psychotic episode, it can be difficult to distinguish between what is real and what is merely in their minds. 

Psychosis typically manifests itself throughout adolescence or early adulthood. Every year, around 100,000 teenagers and young adults in the United States have first-episode psychosis (FEP). In total, one out of every 100 people will experience a psychotic episode at some point in their lives.

Phases of Psychosis

Psychosis is not a separate disorder. It’s a symptom of a larger health issue. While psychosis is usually associated with mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or serious depression, it can also be provoked by trauma, substance misuse, brain disease or injury, and even excessive sleep deprivation. 

Although each person’s experience with psychosis is unique, a typical psychotic episode develops through three distinct stages: the prodromal phase, the acute phase, and recovery. 

In a recent blog post about how to spot the early indicators of a psychotic disorder, we went into great detail about the prodromal period. This early stage of psychosis, characterized by subtle changes in a person’s thoughts, feelings, or behaviors, might persist for several months to a year or longer. 

It may be difficult to focus, understand what others are saying during the prodromal stage, or keep track of one’s ideas. As a result, people may become irritated, detached, overburdened, or suspicious. 

Signs of Acute Psychosis

The prodromal phase of psychosis eventually gives place to the acute phase, often known as a psychotic episode. During this stage, the typical symptoms of psychosis, such as hallucinations and delusions, arise and become obvious. 

Some common warnings of psychotic episodes or acute psychosis are:


A hallucination is the perception of something that is not real. A person may see or hear objects or people that do not exist, hear voices or sounds that do not exist, experience imagined touch sensations, smell aromas that no one else can smell, or experience taste when there is nothing in their mouth. 


A delusion is a firm belief that is unlikely to be true and appears unreasonable to others. Delusions can cause a person to believe that external forces govern their thoughts and behaviors or that a person or institution is out to get them. Delusions of grandeur can cause a person to believe they are all-powerful or even god-like.

Confused Speech

Acute psychosis can generate disorganized cognitive processes that make it difficult to concentrate. This can manifest as rapid-fire or continuous speech, interrupted speech that jumps from one topic to the next mid-sentence, or frequent speech pauses caused by a lost stream of thought. 

Mood Changes

A psychotic episode can also cause severe mood fluctuations, especially if the symptoms are caused by a mental health disease such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. In such instances, a person may have a high, exhilarated mood (mania) followed by a depressed, withdrawn mood in a relatively short period of time (depression).

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