Teen Brief Psychotic Disorder: A Short and Stress-Related Experience of Psychosis

In 2012, filmmaker Jason Russell experienced breaking success with his film Kony 2012. The documentary highlighted the controversial Ugandan guerilla leader Joseph Kony’s and his use of child soldiers. The film was a viral internet sensation, quickly attracting millions of views and generating controversy around the globe.


Jason Russell was soon all over the media for having made grand efforts to bring Kony to justice. He and his non-profit group Invisible Children experienced a successful campaign, as many men and women around the world helped spread his message and donate to his cause.


However, on March 15, 2012, Russell returned to the public eye in a different sort of way. Residents of San Diego were calling the police because of the abnormal behavior that Russell was exhibiting in public. He was reported to be running naked and then later in his underwear through streets of the city. Reports also indicated that he was vandalizing cars, pounding his fists on the pavement, and making obscene gestures.


Russell was later detained and hospitalized. Eventually, he was diagnosed with Brief Psychotic Disorder. Individuals with this illness have sudden, short periods of psychotic behavior, often in response to a very stressful event, such as a death in the family, or in Russell’s case, perhaps the release of his film and the media’s response to it.


Psychosis is a symptom of mind that typically shows up in adolescence, or in one’s 20’s or 30’s. Russell was 33 when he experienced the illness. Psychosis is considered to be an experience of the mind (psyche) characterized by the loss of contact with reality and including either hallucinations or delusions. A hallucination 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. Delusions, on the other hand, 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 are disorganized thinking, disorganized speech, unusual behavior or dress, confusion, disturbances in memory, indecisiveness, and changes in weight, sleep, and/or eating habits.


Brief psychotic disorder is when a teen or adult experiences psychosis for a brief period of time, and recovery is often quick, usually less than a month. Although there is no distinct cause of psychosis, this type of psychotic disorder, is often associated with stress. In fact, it is sometimes called Brief Reactive Psychosis. At times, psychosis does not have an identifiable cause. In these cases, there are no apparent traumas or related experiences of loss or disaster. For women, a brief psychotic episode can take place right after giving birth. Within 4 weeks of having a baby, females are might experience hallucinations, delusions, or other symptoms of a psychotic episode.


Essentially, this uncommon illness in teens and adults possesses the same symptoms as schizophrenia. However, the a brief psychotic disorder, as the name implies, is short and not a psychological disorder that an individual will continue to experience throughout his or her life. Nonetheless, for teens and adults alike, it is an overwhelming and frightening experience, particularly if it is not part of an individual’s regular experience of life. It might feel unmanageable, alarming, and confusing.


If a teen experiences these symptoms, it is likely that he or she would be assessed medically to determine whether or not any physical ailments could be the cause. Regardless, a psychological assessment would be used 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.