Reactive psychosis: causes, symptoms and treatment

Reactive psychosis: causes, symptoms and treatment

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Psychosis is an alteration of perception, behavior, emotions and thinking that can lead people to experience a serious disconnection with reality. When a person suffers from psychosis, he presents symptoms such as anxiety, lack of concentration, hallucinations, delusions or even depression, among many others. This is a condition that commonly occurs in schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders such as Reactive Psychosis, a psychological disorder of which we speak next.


  • 1 What is Reactive Psychosis?
  • 2 Symptoms of reactive psychosis
  • 3 Causes of Reactive Psychosis
  • 4 Treatment of reactive psychosis

What is reactive psychosis?

Reactive psychosis is a rare psychological disorder in which periods of psychotic behavior suddenly and of short duration. These psychotic behaviors can be from hallucinations, delusions or confusion among others.

In order to talk about reactive psychosis, it must appear suddenly and not extend beyond a month. There are three types of reactive psychosis


  • Reactive psychosis with a clear external trigger factor: In this type of reactive psychosis there is a key external factor that has triggered the disorder and that can be clearly detected, usually a stressful or traumatic event that leads the affected person to a high level of anxiety or stress.
  • Reactive psychosis without an obvious trigger. It is the brief psychotic disorder that appears without the appearance of a previous stressful or traumatic event.
  • Reactive psychosis during the postpartum period. This type of reactive psychosis appears in women during the first weeks after giving birth, however, this subtype is not a particularly common phenomenon.

Symptoms of reactive psychosis

The symptoms of this disorder usually last a few days or weeks, however their severity may even lead the patient to experience certain risks such as suicide or violent behavior. These are symptoms that also occur in other psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. The most common are hallucinations and delusions.

  • Hallucinations: One of the most common symptoms in psychoses are usually hallucinations, altered states of perception in which the person can feel, hear or see things that do not exist in reality. This occurs when, for example, a person hears voices or sounds that do not exist, or when they think they can see something or someone who is not present in real life.
  • Delusions: Delusions are another common symptom in psychoses and are based on maintaining and defending incoherent or unlogical beliefs such as paranoid, conspiratory or great ideas, totally unrelated to reality. Thus, it can be a delusion to say that they are chasing us or that they have put microphones to spy on us in our house, when this is not true.

In addition to hallucinations and delusions, other common symptoms are:

  • Disorganized language: This symptom goes hand in hand with disorganized thinking. It is presented in the form of incoherent speech, showing little or no relationship between some ideas and others.
  • Extreme mood swings: People can get from one emotion to another in a short time and in an exaggerated way.
  • Disorganized behavior: Like language, the person's behavior can become disorganized, incoherent behaviors with little logical appearance, such as undressing in public places or screaming suddenly.
  • Lack of personal care People affected by this disorder may suffer from a lack of basic care such as maintaining proper hygiene or physical appearance.

Causes of Reactive Psychosis

Although the causes of this disorder are not entirely clear, one possible is considered genetic relationship important for its development. It seems that it is more common for this condition to appear in people who have relatives who suffer or have suffered psychotic or mood disorders, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or depression.

Reactive psychosis is a disorder that not only develops due to biological or genetic causes, but also contextual ones. So, a traumatic event as a tragic loss or a violent accident, they can trigger this state of alteration and disconnection from reality.

In addition, other personality characteristics, such as poor coping skills, can make a person more likely to react

in this way maladaptive as a weapon of defense against a very stressful reality.

Treatment of reactive psychosis

Normally the symptoms of reactive psychosis they remit on their own in a period not exceeding one month. Although most people with this disorder only experience it once, after a stressful occasion, some may experience it more often. If this happens and the symptoms do not diminish, it will be a mental health professional who should consider if the patient is not suffering from a major disorder.

During the development of reactive psychosis, health professionals usually evaluate the symptoms to rule out other causes and commonly prescribe some medications such as antipsychotics or antidepressants to control the symptoms. In addition, patients are usually supervised with a view to controlling possible harm to themselves or others and professionals can accompany the psychotherapy treatment to ensure that the patient understands what is happening and can manage the symptoms more effectively.

Links of interest

Psychology Today Brief Psychotic Disorder. //

MedlinePlus. Brief Psychotic Disorder. //


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