Psychotic Disorders: Facts & Stats

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Today’s topic is psychotic disorders. Psychotic disorders are serious mental health disorders with abnormal thinking patterns and perceptions. And most notably, people that struggle with psychotic disorder lose touch with reality. We are going to specifically discuss Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective Disorder.

Exploring Psychotic Disorders


Before I get specific, here are several important definitions:




Hallucinations are when you experience something that is not there. There are 5 primary types of hallucinations:

  1. Visual: Seeing something that isn’t there.
  2. Auditory: Hearing something that isn’t there.
  3. Tactile: Feeling something that isn’t there.
  4. Olfactory: Smelling something that isn’t there.
  5. Gustatory: Tasting something that isn’t there.




Delusions, or delusional thinking, are beliefs that are different from the rest of society. Common examples of delusions include:

  • paranoia/others are out to get you
  • “conspiracy theories”
  • feelings of others watching them
  • believing others can read your mind or your thoughts are being transmitted
  • believing others are inserting thoughts into your mind
  • beliefs of special messages in TV, songs, movies, or books
    • can also include believing specials are specific to you
  • thoughts that you have special powers
  • believing you are famous or have religious significance
  • items have special powers

Hallucinations and delusions are culturally relevant. This means it’s not a delusion if the belief is common in your culture. For example, spiritual possession is normal in Haiti, where the primary religion is Vodou (voodoo).


Symptom Types

Psychotic disorders are comprised of two types of symptoms: positive and negative.

Positive Symptoms

Positive symptoms are various types of symptoms that are added to a person’s normal. Examples of this are hallucinations and delusions.


Negative Symptoms

Negative symptoms are various symptoms that are subtracted from a person’s normal. Examples of this are catatonia (inability to move normally) and reduced emotional expression.



Schizophrenia is commonly misused to describe someone with multiple personalities. The word schizophrenia is made up of two parts: “Schizo-,” meaning split, and “-phrenia,” meaning mind. This refers to the mind splitting from reality, rather than splitting into pieces.

Schizophrenia is another frequently misunderstood disorder, though is portrayed more accurately in the media. A Beautiful Mind does a decent job of showcasing schizophrenia in an easily understood way. This movie mostly showcases delusional thinking and hallucinations. Unfortunately, this is not what hallucinations and delusions always look like. There is not always a visual hallucination to go with an auditory hallucination.

To be diagnosed with schizophrenia, you must have symptoms for at least 6 months. During that period of time, you must have 2 or more of the following (must have #1, #2, or #3):

  1. delusions
  2. hallucinations
  3. disorganized speech (nonsensical, incoherent)
  4. grossly disorganized behavior or catatonia
  5. negative symptoms

Your symptoms have to make a noticeable impact on your ability to function in one or more areas (caring for yourself, school, work, relationships, etc.) most of the time.

Your symptoms are not due to drug use or another medical/psychiatric condition.

If you have Autism Spectrum Disorder, only hallucinations or delusions are required to make a diagnosis.

Exploring Psychotic Disorders

Schizoaffective Disorder

Schizoaffective Disorder is a combination of schizophrenia and a mood disorder. There are two types of Schizoaffective Disorder: depressive type and bipolar type.

To be diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder:

  • You must meet criteria for Schizophrenia
  • Meet criteria for Major Depressive Disorder or Bipolar Disorder
  • Have mood symptoms for the majority of the time that you’ve had symptoms*
  • Experience mood symptoms without psychotic symptoms
  • Have psychotic symptoms without mood symptoms
  • Not experience these symptoms as a result of drug use or another medical/psychiatric condition

*If you have had psychotic symptoms (schizophrenia) for 4 years, and you’ve had depressive symptoms for a total of 1 year during that time, you would not meet criteria Schizoaffective Disorder. If you’ve had depressive symptoms for 2 years or more during that time period, you would.



There is no specified cause for schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. There are some interesting correlations for schizophrenia, however, such as:

  • Being born in late winter/early spring
  • The age of the father at time of conception
  • Prenatal complications and malnutrition
  • Growing up in urban areas

This is not to say that any of those things cause schizophrenia, but rather than is a slight trend between those things and schizophrenia. People with a schizophrenic parent have an increased risk of developing schizophrenia. Schizoaffective Disorder has a higher prevalence among people with immediate relatives with Schizoaffective Disorder.



  • Antipsychotic medications are typically prescribed for people with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder.
  • People with Schizoaffective Disorder, Depressive Type often take an antipsychotic and an antidepressant.
  • People with Schizoaffective Disorder, Bipolar Type often take an antipsychotic, an antidepressant, and a mood stabilizer.
  • Individuals with these disorders often benefit from individual therapy, family therapy, and support groups.
  • Getting proper care is important, particularly with psychotic symptoms. Having a strong support system is huge in coping with psychotic symptoms.
  • Getting exercise and proper nutrition can help manage mood symptoms associated with Schizoaffective Disorder.



  • ~1% of the adult U.S. population will develop schizophrenia.
  • ~0.3% of the adult U.S. population will develop Schizoaffective Disorder.
  • People with schizophrenia are 50 times more likely to attempt suicide.
  • 5-6% of people with schizophrenia will commit suicide.
  • ~20% of people with schizophrenia will attempt suicide.
  • Schizophrenia affects men and women equally, but at different times.
    • Men are more likely to develop schizophrenia during their late teens and early 20s.
    • Women are more likely to develop schizophrenia around 30-40 years old.
  • Schizophrenia typically begins to present in early adulthood.
  • Some people discontinue having hallucinations with medication.
  • Untreated mental health disorders can result in substance abuse.
Where did you first learn about psychotic disorders? Was it accurate?


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