Psychotic Disorders - A Brief Survey of Abnormal Psychology - Definitions

Psychology: Essential Thinkers, Classic Theories, and How They Inform Your World - Andrea Bonior 2016

Psychotic Disorders
A Brief Survey of Abnormal Psychology


US prevalence 0.5 percent among adults


Schizophrenia is widely misunderstood. Often confused with dissociative identity disorder (the experience of having multiple personalities), and mistakenly seen as presenting an increased risk of violence, schizophrenia is a serious disorder that entails psychotic symptoms and a significant mental break from reality. Though the word psychotic is often tossed about in American slang, it actually describes the experience of either delusions (beliefs that are out of touch with reality) or hallucinations (sensory experiences that are altered or distorted). Hallucinations can involve any of the five senses, but people with schizophrenia most commonly have auditory hallucinations, such as hearing voices. Having delusions goes beyond simply having an unorthodox set of beliefs (as in holding to a simple conspiracy theory); delusions are more systematic and indicate truly disordered thought patterns. Sometimes the difference between being psychotic and believing in a conspiracy theory can be a matter of controversy, but surely there is a difference between believing that the government has secret surveillance systems in place and believing that the government has implanted a microchip in every citizen’s brain. Schizophrenia may include a relatively sudden psychotic break, which often happens in the late teens or early twenties. The term positive symptoms is used for the presence of experiences (chiefly hallucinations and delusions) that have no objective basis in reality. The term negative symptoms is used for the absence of phenomena (such as speech, social interaction, and emotional expression) that are normally present. Additional symptoms may include disorganized speech, inappropriate or flat emotional expression, and even catatonic bodily movements. Without adequate treatment, schizophrenia seriously impairs functioning, but it varies in its severity. Some people with schizophrenia are unable to care for themselves or to engage in any cohesive interaction with the world around them. Others are able to hang on to jobs and relationships while battling their delusions and hallucinations, and some of them do so to great acclaim, as did the mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr., whose story was told in the biography and film A Beautiful Mind, and Elyn Saks, a professor of law and psychology whose autobiography, The Center Cannot Hold, recounts her triumphant path through the experience of schizophrenia and its treatment.