Psychotic Disorders

Psychotic disorders are severe mental illnesses in which a person loses touch with reality. Symptoms may include false beliefs and seeing, hearing, or feeling things that others do not. Other symptoms may include incoherent speech, having strange, persistent thoughts, and behavior that is inappropriate for the situation. Persons with psychotic disorders may withdraw from social activities and have limited social contact, lack motivation, have a cognitive impairment, and have difficulty carrying out daily activities. Psychotic disorders can include schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, delusional disorder, major depressive disorder, and brief psychotic disorder.

While many people who experience psychotic symptoms lead productive lives, some struggle with adhering to medication, managing stressors, maintaining education or employment, developing and maintaining relationships, solving everyday problems, and living independently. Psychiatric hospitalizations may be periodically needed for their well-being.

Diagnosing Psychotic Disorders

People with psychotic disorders typically see a decline in their ability to function in school, work, self-care, and activities of everyday living, and have disruptions in their interpersonal relationships. There may be noticeable changes in motivation and a flattening in affect. In addition, persons with psychotic disorders typically have one or both of the following types of experiences:

Hallucinations are seeing, hearing, or feeling things that aren’t there, such as:

  • Hearing voices, sounds or music (auditory hallucinations)
  • Strange sensations or unexplainable feelings
  • Seeing objects or people that are not there or experiencing perceptual distortions

Delusions are strong beliefs that are not consistent with the person’s culture, are unlikely to be true, and may seem irrational to others, such as:

  • Believing external forces are controlling thoughts, feelings, and behaviors
  • Believing that trivial remarks, events or objects have personal meaning or significance
  • Thinking you have special powers, are on a special mission
  • Believing that others can read your thoughts or are inserting thoughts into your heard
  • Falsely believing that you are in a special or romantic relationship with another person

A diagnosis of a psychotic disorder is typically made after other specific conditions that can cause these symptoms, such as substance abuse, has been ruled out. A doctor bases the diagnosis largely on the person’s history and symptoms. The doctor also must assess if the person presents a danger to self or others and how likely they may be to act on their false beliefs or in response to their hallucinations.

Our Treatment Approach to Psychotic Disorders

Treatment of psychotic disorders can help patients to manage their illness and have productive and satisfying lives. At NewYork-Presbyterian, we have psychiatrists, social workers, psychologists, and other licensed mental health workers experienced in helping patients and their loved ones deal with psychotic disorders. Medications are frequently used to treat these disorders. Cognitive behavioral therapy for psychosis may help the person learn how to challenge their beliefs. Skills training and psychotherapies may help shift the person’s focus away from the hallucinations and delusions, to ways they can be more successful in reaching their occupational, educational, and interpersonal goals. Cognitive training can improve attention, concentration, memory, and problem solving, and social cognition training can help patients to deepen their social network and interact effectively. Family education and counseling can help loved ones understand psychosis and provide support.

Special Programs

NewYork-Presbyterian offers several programs to help patients with psychotic disorders.

  • Lieber Recovery Clinic. The Lieber Recovery Clinic at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia is a recovery-oriented, evidence-based treatment program for adults who have received a diagnosis of ADHD, bipolar disorder, depression, high-functioning autism, and a schizophrenia spectrum disorder. For more information about the Lieber Recovery Clinic, please call 212-326-8441.
  • Second Chance Program. The Second Chance Program at NewYork-Presbyterian Westchester is an inpatient rehabilitation program for individuals who have received a diagnosis of schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. For more information about the Second Chance Program, please call 888-694-5700.

Appointments & Referrals

Our inpatient and outpatient programs are run by highly skilled psychiatrists and psychologists with sub-specialty training in areas ranging from addiction to sleep disorders. To learn more about our inpatient services or to be admitted for inpatient treatment, please call 888-694-5700. To learn more about our outpatient services or to find a psychiatrist, please call 877-NYP-WELL.

Please note, if this is an emergency, please dial 9-1-1 or visit your local emergency department. For free and confidential support from trained mental health professionals, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or NYC Well at 888-NYC-WELL (888-692-9355).

Refer A Patient

At NewYork-Presbyterian, we treat a diverse patient population. Clinicians in private practice or at other hospitals are welcome to refer their patient to NewYork-Presbyterian. Please call 888-694-5700 to arrange a referral.