Assessment | Biopsychology | Comparative | Cognitive | Developmental | Language | Individual differences | Personality | Philosophy | Social |
Methods | Statistics | Clinical | Educational | Industrial | Professional items | World psychology |

Clinical: Approaches · Group therapy · Techniques · Types of problem · Areas of specialism · Taxonomies · Therapeutic issues · Modes of delivery · Model translation project · Personal experiences ·

A psychotic break occurs when a person experiences an episode of acute primary psychosis - generally for the first time,[1] though it may also be after a significant symptom-free period.

Some have suggested that (however disconcerting) such a break may be a form of psychological communication, opening the way for a less ego-bound and more emotionally grounded sense of personality.[2]


Many things can cause temporary psychosis. Environmental triggers, such as losing a loved one, are known to contribute, as may excessive stress,[3] or the interaction of strong social demands with a pre-existing vulnerability of self.[4]

Other causes that have been identified include lack of sleep, fever, brain damage, and even hypnosis.[5]

War/battlefield experience may also trigger a psychotic break:[6] when reality becomes unbearable, the mind temporarily breaks with it.[7]

Parenthood may occasionally set off a psychotic break in men,[8] as may giving birth in women who have previously denied their pregnancy.[9]


Several types of psychoactive drugs have been shown to correlate with psychotic breaks.[10]

The compulsive drug user may find their ego dissociating in a psychotic break if habituation means the drug can no longer fulfil its defensive function.[11]


Symptoms of psychotic breaks vary greatly, usually depending on the circumstances of diagnosis or any contributary substance ingested. Symptoms can range from harmless, sometimes unnoticed delusions, to violent outbursts and major depression.

Where a bipolar disorder is involved, crying, grandiosity, insomnia, irritability, and persecutory delusions may all or severally manifest themselves as symptoms.[12]

In popular cultureEdit

Psychotic breaks are sometimes portrayed in novels, plays, and movies. Examples include Birdy by William Wharton and "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

The crime drama television show Criminal Minds features episodes where some killers are suffering from psychotic breaks.

See also Edit

References Edit

  1. Susan W. Gray, Competency-based Assessments in Mental Health Practice (2011) p. 175
  2. Bruce Bibee, The Deep Healing Process (2005) p. 16
  3. Otto Fenichel, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis (1946) p. 447
  4. J. F. M. Gleeson et al, Psychotherapies for the Psychoses (2008). p. 59
  5. Eric Berne, A Layman's Guide to Psychiatry and Psychosis (1976) p. 149, 210, and 285
  6. Raymond J. Scurfield, Healing Journeys vol 2 (2006) p. 146
  7. Otto Fenichel, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis (1946) p. 126
  8. Richard K. Reed, Birthing Fathers (2005) p. 69
  9. Jeanne Flavin, Our Bodies, Our Crimes (2009) p. 90
  10. Eric Berne, A Layman's Guide to Psychiatry and Psychosis (1976) p. 407
  11. Kevin Volkan, Dancing among the Maenads (1994) p. 70
  12. S. Hossein Fatemi/Paula J. Clayton eds., The Medical Basis of Psychiatry (2008) p. 412

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).

Ad blocker interference detected!

Wikia is a free-to-use site that makes money from advertising. We have a modified experience for viewers using ad blockers

Wikia is not accessible if you’ve made further modifications. Remove the custom ad blocker rule(s) and the page will load as expected.