A psychotic illness, also known as psychosis, is a medical condition that affects an individual's cognition, perception, reasoning and decision making ability. Psychotic illnesses have a number of causes, from genetics to legal and illegal drugs. Symptoms vary; the presentation and progression of symptoms is key in the diagnostic process. Treatment depends on the illness and its severity.
There are three main causes of psychosis: illegal and legal drugs, secondary disorders that affects brain function and psychiatric disorders. The first cause is the most controversial. Researchers disagree whether illegal drug use causes psychosis or awakes symptoms of a pre-existing mental condition. Secondary disorders are other diseases such as cancer or Lyme disease that affect mental functioning. Finally, psychiatric disorders are those that originate in the brain due to one's genetics; schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and clinical depression are just a few examples.
Syphilis is an example of a secondary disorder that causes psychosis. Syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease, affects the brain in its later stages. A patient can experience seizures as the disease destroys his or her central nervous system. Other neurological symptoms include a decrease in the ability to move and extreme pain in the legs.
Another example of a psychiatric disorder is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Once known as shell shock, it develops in patients who have experienced a traumatic event. Fighting in war and witnessing a murder are just two of many events that can cause PTSD. Patients experience flashbacks and dreams that make them replay the traumatic event. Even years later, unassuming triggers such as hearing a loud noise or accidentally bumping into someone can cause flashbacks.
Though many illnesses fall under the category of psychosis, each illness has one or a combination of three characteristics: delusional beliefs, hallucinations and a thought disorder. Interpreting these symptoms allows physicians and psychologists to diagnose the particular psychotic illness. Diagnosis can sometimes be difficult, as many illnesses tend to share or have similar symptoms. Patients or relatives of patients should be prepared for a sometimes lengthy diagnostic process.
Treating a psychotic illness depends on the illness and its severity. Some illnesses may only require counseling sessions while the patient goes about his or her normal life. For more severe cases, medication may be required, especially if a patient suffers from bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. If the condition is extreme, hospitalization in a psychiatric hospital may be required. These hospitals provide many services such as a personalized program, medication and counseling.