Types of psychosis

There are several different types of psychosis but when an individual experiences their first episode it is not always possible to determine which type they are suffering from. This is because many of the criteria used to identify a particular type are as yet unknown, for example the duration and severity of symptoms. Also, a comprehensive assessment is more likely to lead to a proper diagnosis. Mental health professionals will use information from several sources including the individuals own account, family history and physical examinations to create a picture of what is going on for the individual at that time. All assessments are completely confidential except in extreme situations.

Each individual's experience of psychosis may differ and although two people may have a similar diagnosis, their symptoms may not be the same and they may be affected by psychosis in a different way.

Here is a description of some of the types of psychosis:


Schizophrenia is a psychotic illness defined by the presence of the symptoms described before for a period of at least six months although these symptoms may last longer. Contrary to popular belief, a person with schizophrenia is not a person with multiple personalities.

Brief Reactive Psychosis

Psychotic symptoms arise suddenly, usually in response to a major stress. In contrast to other types of psychosis, the person may not have any of the common signs mentioned before and as the name suggests, the symptoms usually last over a shorter period such as a few days or a week. An individual experiencing this type of psychosis will usually make a quick recovery.

Organic Psychosis

Psychosis can occur as a result of a physical illness when normal brain function is disrupted. Such illnesses that have psychotic symptoms are AIDS or a brain tumour but not all people who suffer from these physical illnesses will experience psychosis.

Delusional Disorder

This type of psychotic illness is characterised by just one psychotic symptom, delusions. This is when a person holds strong beliefs that do not fit in with other people's interpretation of reality. The person may begin to act on these beliefs and this is normally when the illness comes to the attention of others.

Bipolar Disorder

People who are affected by this disorder experience extreme mood swings. They may experience highs (mania) and lows (depression) and psychosis can appear during either phase. The psychotic thinking usually fits in with the person's mood at the time, for example, if people are overly excitable they may believe they have special talents that other people do not have.

Psychotic Depression

In this type of psychosis the main feature is a severe depression but with psychotic symptoms happening at the same time. It is different from bipolar disorder in that the individual does not experience any mania.

Schizoaffective Disorder

This type of psychotic illness is similar to bipolar and psychotic depression in that there are symptoms of a mood disorder (depression) and a psychotic disorder. The difference is that the symptoms of either psychosis or mood disturbance occurs at the same time but there is usually a period of time when there is psychosis present but not mood disturbance. Throughout the total duration of illness, the mood disturbance represents a significant portion of time spent unwell.


What is psychosis?

Who can get psychosis?

What causes psychosis

Phases of psychosis

Types of psychosis?

Is psychosis treatable?

Drugs and psychosis

Why is early intervention important?

What can friends and family do?