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What Are Psychotic Behaviors?

Lainie Petersen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Psychotic behaviors are typically symptoms of the disturbed state of mind of an individual who has lost touch with reality. These behaviors include disorganized speech, aggression, and expressions of unreasonable paranoia and fear. Depending on an individual's circumstances, psychotic behaviors may also include a refusal to bathe, failure to attend school or go to work, and a general decline in his or her ability to manage basic living tasks. Many individuals who experience psychosis also complain of hallucinations and hearing voices.

When a person is said to be psychotic, he or she is typically suffering from a mental illness. In some cases, drug use or withdrawal may also result in psychotic behaviors. Psychosis is a symptom of many different mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Occasionally, individuals who have undergone a significant shock, such as the loss of a loved one, may demonstrate these behaviors for a brief period of time.

Disorganized speech and difficulty with communication are often one of the more obvious psychotic behaviors and a sign to both mental health professionals and loved ones that an individual may be experiencing mental distress. While in psychosis, an individual may jump from subject to subject in conversation and may have difficulty making himself or herself understood to others. As an individual's mental condition deteriorates, so may his or her speech, and he or she may eventually simply speak in nonsensical words and phrases. This phenomenon is often called “word salad” by mental health experts.

Another common indication of psychosis is the inability of the affected individual to properly care for himself even if he has previously been able to live independently. A person may refuse to tend to his personal hygiene and may express no interest in correcting this problem even if friends and family point out that his appearance or body odor is offensive to others. The individual may also refuse to perform basic housekeeping tasks, such as cleaning, taking out the trash, or even preparing food for his own consumption.

Perhaps the most troubling of psychotic behaviors are those that stem from paranoia and delusions about others. An individual experiencing psychosis may believe that caregivers, family members, and friends are out to hurt her and may either become accusatory or violent toward these people. She may even attempt to harm herself. In such cases, it may be necessary to forcibly hospitalize or medicate the individual until her symptoms and behaviors subside.

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Lainie Petersen
By Lainie Petersen
Lainie Petersen, a talented writer, copywriter, and content creator, brings her diverse skill set to her role as an editor. With a unique educational background, she crafts engaging content and hosts podcasts and radio shows, showcasing her versatility as a media and communication professional. Her ability to understand and connect with audiences makes her a valuable asset to any media organization.
Discussion Comments
By anon994539 — On Feb 16, 2016

I did a degree in psychology and my experience of life generally suggests to me that psychosis is possibly very much an overstated phenomenon by the mental health profession. I think the truth of such allegations needs very careful examination and the motivations for the profession to 'create work for itself' examined also.

I have met in my life, almost no people who fit this extreme definitions of psychosis. I think psychosis is very much an invention of the psychology profession, and dangerous, since the easy phrase 'delusional disorder' can be used as a justification to dump anything at all on a person and get away with nothing but bullying and intimidation, and should be reclassified crime in such cases, and not put under the mat to protect the reputation of the psychology profession.

My own experience from many directions is that psychology is a profession that I would not, on the basis of what I have seen, have confidence in. I have found it, personally, to be a lying, manipulative, and deceitful profession, that I suspect uses psychology for political purposes, and I would have no hesitation in saying this in any court in the world, even if it is only my own opinion. --Katrina W., New Zealand

By anon989486 — On Mar 09, 2015

Psychiatry is an industry created by the same group of people devolving and subverting our society.

By anon973541 — On Oct 12, 2014

What would it suggest if a person in the military were diagnosed with "psychosis/mental" illness and there were never any further follow up to the diagnosis?

How might it affect the person through the years if for that person, there were nothing for him/her to experience to compare their life to. In other words, if they were as they were, how would they know/live their lives any different than if they were never diagnosed with the condition? And, how might this affect them as to quality of life and possible advancement in jobs, etc.?

By anon947882 — On Apr 27, 2014

The description fits Alzheimer's disease perfectly. Coconut oil gives the brain the energy it needs to function properly. It may not cure any disease or mental condition, but it is well worth trying. It will do no harm and could possibly improve the quality of life for everyone involved.

By anon340072 — On Jun 29, 2013

I have psychotic depression. I am a 25 year old male and I just now am getting help. I've had it since I was 12. If anybody reading this have teenage children showing any signs, please look into it and at least talk to them. Nobody did that for me and now once again, I've lost everything.

By andee — On Aug 20, 2011

I have known a few people who have suffered from mental disorders, and I can imagine how hard it must be for everyone to cope with them.

One of my friends said she had a lot of symptoms that were similar to a psychosis definition, and it was actually a relief to get a diagnosis for it. Before she was seen she had really let herself go and became quite withdrawn from friends and family because nobody understood what was going on.

She can keep her symptoms under control if she is consistent about taking her medications. She always feels pretty good when she is on her medications, and is tempted to quit taking them.

Anytime she has tried to quit, her symptoms appear again, so she knows she will probably be taking something for the rest of her life.

By sunshined — On Aug 19, 2011

My sister began showing some psychotic behaviors and this was not only hard on her, but the whole family as well. We had no idea what brought these strange behaviors on.

She could not sleep, became combative and kept saying there was a strange man in her house - referring to her husband.

They had a hard time figuring out what was going on because she was showing bipolar symptoms and schizophrenia symptoms. After a lot of tests, they determined she had fluid on her brain, and had to put a shunt in her head to relieve the pressure on her brain.

These symptoms did not disappear right away, but gradually went away over time. This was a scary time for everyone, and can be very confusing and unsettling when you don't know what is going on.

By BrickBack — On Aug 18, 2011

I just wanted to say that some elderly patients that develop dementia also develop psychosis as well. This is what happened to my father. He lived in an assisted living facility and luckily they were able to treat the psychosis with medication although he sometimes became combative.

His personal hygiene became a problem and we had to talk to him because he almost got kicked out of the facility because of it. I know that some assisted living facilities do not treat patients with psychiatric disorders and it can be challenging to find some that do.

By Valencia — On Aug 17, 2011

I'm studying to be a mental health case worker and thought I'd share some interesting research on psychotic behavior in children.

The link between violent video games and aggressive or delusional behavior in young people is something many people would take as read. What shocked me was information which suggests the scope for self inflicting brain disorders is actually much wider.

A doctor found that following an initial psychotic episode, removing the child or teenagers access to all forms of screens meant most recovered completely! This was achieved with no medication at all!

I imagine it's pretty challenging to actually do this. No cell phone, laptop, game players, e-book readers or anything similar. Most people would be lost without these things.

Still, it's an interesting concept, and could lead to researchers and professionals in the field having to redefine the condition entirely.

By angelBraids — On Aug 16, 2011

@yumdelish - I'm glad that you felt able to share this story with others, it's quite a responsibility for you to have to deal with this. That you are away from home and dealing with a relative stranger's behavior makes it harder.

It does sound like your room mate may be experiencing a psychotic break, which could signify a worsening of any underlying psychotic condition.

Personally I think you need to seek help, and to do this without asking for permission from your room mate. She needs professional help, and you need to make that happen.

There are many possible explanations for what is going on, but the priority now is to be sure she gets whatever help she needs.

My mother lived with psychotic depression for much of her adult life, at a time when there was less therapy of any kind around. It's wonderful that treatment these days is readily available and usually beneficial.

By yumdelish — On Aug 16, 2011

I am working on a summer program at school and I am pretty sure my roommate has some kind of undiagnosed psychotic disorder.

She's extremely sensitive, which I think is part of her general personality, but this is increasingly showing itself as paranoia. It's gotten to the point where she thinks most everyone is talking about her, plotting to get her thrown off the course or something else along those lines.

It's probably true to say that she is the object of some gossip, but this is mostly because of the way she is behaving! Yesterday I found her taping up the air ducts because she was sure bugs were trying to crawl in and get her.

She does take care of her personal hygience, but limits food to things she opens and prepares herself.

Are these things signs of psychotic behavior? I feel pretty clueless as to what I should do for her. I did suggest she talked with someone on staff, but that wasn't very well received at all.

Lainie Petersen
Lainie Petersen
Lainie Petersen, a talented writer, copywriter, and content creator, brings her diverse skill set to her role as an...
Learn more
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