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. The sufferer may also be unable to distinguish reality from fantasy (for example, believing that a dream really happened or experiencing hallucinations that appear to be real.) Where a bipolar disorder is involved, crying, grandiosity, insomnia, irritability, and persecutory delusions may all or severally manifest themselves as symptoms.
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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- Otto Fenichel, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis (1946) p. 126
- Richard K. Reed, Birthing Fathers (2005) p. 69
- Jeanne Flavin, Our Bodies, Our Crimes (2009) p. 90
- Eric Berne, A Layman's Guide to Psychiatry and Psychosis (1976) p. 407
- Kevin Volkan, Dancing among the Maenads (1994) p. 70
- S. Hossein Fatemi/Paula J. Clayton eds., The Medical Basis of Psychiatry (2008) p. 412
- Jesse Watkins, 'A Ten-Day Voyage' in R. D. Laing, The Politics of Experience (1984)
- Stuart Sutherland, Breakdown (1998)