Many things can cause temporary psychosis. Environmental triggers, such as losing a loved one, are known to contribute, as may excessive stress, or the interaction of strong social demands with a pre-existing vulnerability of self.
The compulsive drug user may find their ego dissociating in a psychotic break if habituation means the drug can no longer fulfil its defensive function.
Symptoms of psychotic breaks vary greatly, usually depending on the circumstances of diagnosis or any contributary substance ingested. Symptoms can range from harmless, sometimes unnoticed delusions, to violent outbursts and major depression. Other symptoms may include odd beliefs or magical thinking. Feeling confused about whether a dream actually happened. Wondering whether other people might be able to read your mind. Finding meaningful connections between unrelated events, and experiences of unreality.
In popular culture
The crime drama television show Criminal Minds features episodes where some killers are suffering from psychotic breaks.
- Susan W. Gray, Competency-based Assessments in Mental Health Practice (2011) p. 175
- Otto Fenichel, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis (1946) p. 447
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- Jesse Watkins, 'A Ten-Day Voyage' in R. D. Laing, The Politics of Experience (1984)
- Stuart Sutherland, Breakdown (1998)