Psychosis, also referred to as psychotic disorders, are a group of mental health conditions that affect thinking and perceptions. The two most common symptoms are hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that others do not perceive) and delusions (fixed, false beliefs). These symptoms can impact on communication, judgement, behaviours, and general functioning.  

How common is it?

In the general Australian adult population, under 1 in 200 will experience a psychotic illness in a 12 month period.

Are there different types of psychotic disorders?

An episode of psychosis refers to when there is an experience of psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations (seeing, hearing, sensations of things that others do not perceive), delusions (strong beliefs that are unlikely to be true or are irrational to others), confused thinking, changed behaviours and feelings, and confused or incoherent speech. Other difficulties may include sleeping problems, depression, anxiety, social withdrawal, poor motivation, and lowered functioning. 

An episode of psychosis may only last a few days or weeks and only a few times in a lifetime, or be more frequent and severe. Psychotic disorders usually first emerge in late teens, 20 and 30s.

Different types of psychotic disorders include:

  • Schizophrenia: symptoms of schizophrenia include hallucinations or delusions, changes in behaviour, and difficulties with social, vocational/educational and daily functioning which last longer than 6 months
  • Schizoaffective disorder includes the symptoms of schizophrenia together with symptoms of a mood disorder 
  • Schizophreniform disorder: includes the symptoms of schizophrenia that last less than 6 months
  • Brief psychotic disorder: symptoms include sudden, brief (usually less than 1 month) episode of psychosis, commonly occurring after a very stressful event
  • Delusional disorder: involves significant false, fixed beliefs (delusion) involving situations that could be true but is not (e.g. being targeted in a certain way)
  • Substance-induced psychotic disorder is caused by the use of, or stopping the use of a substance, resulting in hallucinations, delusions, or disturbed communication
  • Post-natal psychosis: may include symptoms such as confusion and disorientation, hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, obsessive thoughts about the baby, and life-threatening thoughts or behaviours towards the self or baby