Psychosis and Brief Psychotic Disorder in Teens


Brief Psychotic Disorder is an illness that some teens may be vulnerable to. This is a type of psychological illness that is not very common. However, when an adolescent is vulnerable to psychosis, they will tend to experience it during their late teens or early 20’s. It’s rare for a child to experience any psychotic disorders.  Psychosis is an experience of the mind (psyche) in which a teen loses contact with reality in some way. This could be by experiencing either hallucinations or delusions along with other experiences. Psychosis is a symptom of a handful of mental illnesses, including Brief Psychotic Disorder.


Brief Psychotic Disorder is a diagnosis given to a teen if they’ve experienced psychosis for a brief period of time. The recovery is often quick, usually less than a month and psychosis is often prompted by stress. However, in some cases, the causes of psychosis are unknown. For instance, there may be no apparent traumas or related experiences of loss or disaster. For some female teens, psychosis can happen right after giving birth. When this happens, females might experience hallucinations, delusions, or other symptoms of a psychotic episode within 4 weeks of having a baby.


Hallucination – This is a form of sensory experience that others cannot perceive. In other words, it could be an experience of hearing voices or seeing things that others don’t see. It is an experience of one of the senses that is not also experienced by others.


Delusions – These are false beliefs that an individual continues to believe in despite evidence that disproves the belief.


In addition to having hallucinations and delusions, other symptoms of a psychotic episode may include:

  • disorganized or unclear thinking
  • disorganized or incomprehensible speech
  • unusual behavior
  • unusual dress
  • confusion
  • disturbances in memory
  • indecisiveness,
  • changes in weight, sleep, and/or eating habits


Essentially, Brief Psychotic Disorder in teens possesses the same symptoms as schizophrenia. However, schizophrenia is commonly a life-long illness with symptoms that a person needs to manage for the rest of their life. Whereas, Brief Psychotic Disorder, as the name implies, is a short-lived experience of psychosis which a teen may not ever experience again. Nonetheless, teens who experience psychosis may be overwhelmed and frightened by it.



If a teen experiences psychosis, it is important that they are assessed medically. This will provide more information about whether or not there are physical ailments which could be the cause. A psychological assessment will also be necessary to explore any co-existing mental illnesses. Once an adolescent is treated for a psychotic episode, it is important for a clinician to continue to monitor symptoms in the event that psychosis happens again, leading to diagnoses of other psychotic disorders.


Psychosis is not an easy experience for teens. And they will need support from their family and friends. In fact, some teens may feel stigmatized by the experience. Because of this it’s important that teens return to their usual life, as much as possible, once they’ve been treated for psychosis and the experience has passed.