Why Do Psychotic Breaks Occur?

Why do Psychotic Breaks occur?

You may have ever experienced what is known as a psychotic break: you have heard voices in your head giving you orders or insulting you, you have seen strange beings that did not exist in reality, or you have felt that the whole world was creating a plot against you.

But why did this unpleasant experience happen to you? Why do psychotic breaks occur? Keep reading and we will explain in more detail what they are, why they occur and how we can treat them.

What is a psychotic break?

A psychotic break is a temporary break with reality, during which you cannot distinguish between what is fact or fiction. It can also be called a psychosis or psychotic episode, and can last from hours to months.

The symptoms can be very different, since the outbreak can create very different fictions in the different people who suffer from it. The main symptoms are delusions and hallucinations, and the behaviors that people begin to do as a result of these (isolating themselves, acting extravagantly or disorganized, self-harm…).

Delusions are distorted interpretations of what is happening, that is, false beliefs about reality that are conceived as true and irrefutable. Delusions can be of various types depending on the content of the belief: persecutory or conspiratorial delusions, delusions of grandeur, jealousy, somatic or erotomanic delusions (when they think that a person is madly in love with him/her).

Hallucinations, on the other hand, are perceptions of stimuli without them being present in reality: seeing, hearing or feeling something without it being real. People who suffer from hallucinations are really perceiving these fictions, but they are only a product of their mind. Generally, they tend to be images, sounds, voices or sensations that cause discomfort to the person.

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The psychotic break, in turn, is a characteristic symptom of psychotic disorders. The latter are considered serious mental disorders. The best known of the psychotic disorders is schizophrenia, but there are also others such as delusional disorder or substance-induced psychotic disorder.

Why does a psychotic break occur?

Despite being a symptom of psychotic disorders, experiencing an outbreak does not necessarily mean being diagnosed with a psychotic disorder. They can also occur in people with other serious mental disorders, such as bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder; in people with a medical problem, such as a brain tumor; or even in isolation in people without any disorder or disease, who do not suffer another outbreak in their lives.

But why does a psychotic break occur then? Well, it is produced by different factors: biological, psychological and environmental. First, biological factors refer to both the genetic predisposition that each person may have due to their family history, as well as an imbalance between neurotransmitters in the brain, specifically dopamine, serotonin and glutamate. They can also be due to other medical problems, such as brain tumors, as we have already mentioned.

As for psychological factors, they influence whether a person has been subjected to prolonged stress over time, and whether they have experienced an intense and unpleasant emotional situation, so much so that it can become traumatic, such as the death of a loved one. . This is also why some people with mood or emotional disorders can suffer psychotic breaks.

Finally, environmental factors are also determining factors. These mainly include the consumption of substances, such as sedatives, some medications and drugs. Even more predisposing are drugs that are directly hallucinogenic. These substances alter brain chemistry, and can play tricks in both the short and long term.

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Generally, Psychotic breaks do not usually recur if they are caused by psychological or environmental factors. Always in the event that the stressful or traumatic situation ends and you stop consuming the substances that caused the outbreak, of course. On the other hand, if it has been caused by biological factors, it is very likely that other psychotic outbreaks will recur if the person is not treated by a professional.

Treatment of a psychotic break

The psychotic break can be quite serious if there is no intervention, especially because at first it is not known what the causative factors were. It can perpetuate itself, cause serious damage to the chemistry and composition of the brain, and end up being a psychotic disorder. It can also cause hallucinations or delusions that drive the person to self-harm and cause serious harm, whether consciously or not.

At this point we want to clarify that People who suffer from a psychotic break or disorder are usually not dangerous to others, as they may have us believe in the movies. In any case, they tend to harm themselves more than people who approach them.

For all these reasons, it is necessary for anyone with a psychotic break to go to a hospital. Generally, it is the family, partner or friends who bring the person to the consultation, since the person may initially not be aware that they are suffering from the outbreak. He/she believes that everything is real and that medicine or psychology will not provide the solution.

In the hospital, you are usually admitted for a period of time and receive pharmacological treatment, accompanied by psychological help. Drugs are necessary to stabilize the person and reconnect with reality.

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In the same way, psychological therapy is essential to help people be aware of what is happening to them, provide them with the necessary tools to prevent or intervene during the outbreak, and support them throughout the entire process. The environment can also benefit from psychological therapy to be able to face these situations and help the person suffering from it.