Teen Brief Psychotic Disorder Treatment

Psychosis is a severe form of mental health condition that causes sufferers to lose touch with reality. It can result in hallucinations, delusions, and intense anxiety or mood swings. Teens who experience psychosis for only a short period of time are often suffering from teen Brief Psychotic Disorder.

Although symptoms of Brief Psychotic Disorder are short-lived, developing this condition is a significant red flag for latent mental health issues. It may be a sign that your teen is predisposed to other psychological disorders. You should always seek treatment for this condition no matter how manageable it seems.

What Does Teen Brief Psychotic Disorder Look Like?

  • Irrational thought patterns and delusions may lead your teen to believe they are a part of a scenario that simply doesn’t exist. They will often become confused and make poor judgment calls.
  • Teens may appear to be distracted, as though they are observing something else happening near them. This is often accompanied by slurred speech and short-term memory problems.
  • Teens suffering from psychosis usually have difficulty communicating and may also experience extreme mood swings. Irritability and problems sleeping, or sleeping too much, may also occur.

Signs of Teen Brief Psychotic Disorder

Inability to trust loved ones or friends

Loss of short or long-term memory

Feeling suspicious of kindness

Poor judgement or decision-making

Emotional sensitivity to criticism

Paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations

Being insincere or “fake” in presentation

Slurred or confused speech patterns

Jerky, sporadic movements or spasms

Insomnia, hypersomnia, and bad dreams

Sleeping too much or too little

Types of Teen Brief Psychotic Disorder

With Identifiable Stressors  - This type of Brief Psychotic Disorder is often directly tied to a specific and obvious trauma or stressor that triggers psychosis.

Without Identifiable Stressors - When Brief Psychotic Disorder happens with no identifiable trigger, stressor, or trauma. This form is far more rare and may be tied to latent Schizophrenia or Bipolar Disorder.

Postpartum Onset - this type of Brief Psychotic Disorder is usually seen within the first three months after the birth of a baby. It may be tied to Postpartum Depression.

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Teen Brief Psychotic Disorder Treatment | Paradigm San Francisco

What are the Causes of Teen Brief Psychotic Disorder?

Unfortunately, there no one identifiable cause for psychosis, so it can be very difficult to predict who might develop the disorder and when. There are certain risk factors that might make a teen more susceptible to developing Brief Psychotic Disorder. A family history of Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, or some other type of illness with psychotic features is by far the most common and prominent risk factor we are aware of to date. However, science isn’t yet sure of exactly why this it the case.

Genetics - The most commonly identified risk factor. The good news is that despite genetics being a risk factor, it isn’t actually very “common” to develop psychosis after a parent or relative at all. The actual chance to develop it is quite rare.

Related mood disorders - Depression, Manic-Depression, and other mood disorders may raise the risk for teens to develop Brief Psychotic Disorder. Whether they occur in the parent or in the teen, they may at some point lead to the development of psychotic symptoms. Teens who have trouble coping with the stress related to a mood disorder are more likely to develop psychosis.

Stress - Traumatic events, including childbirth, difficult childhood experiences, violence, or the death of a loved one, can lead to Brief Psychotic Disorder. Prompt treatment of the core cause and stress reduction can shorten the length of time teens suffer.


of first-time psychosis sufferers have Brief Psychotic Disorder


as many females develop Brief Psychotic Disorder as males


days – the average length of a Brief Psychotic episode

How Can I Help My Teen with Brief Psychotic Disorder?

Remain Calm – Try not to let the situation make you feel panicked. It’s easy to become emotional and overwhelmed when your teen is in the midst of a mental health crisis, but controlling your emotions will help you keep the situation under control.

Support Your Teen – Remind yourself that Brief Psychotic Disorder does not make your teen bad, evil, or “possessed;” it is simply a sign that the brain is struggling to function correctly. It may be helpful to think of it as a sort of neurological disorder instead of just a mental health disorder; brain chemicals become imbalanced, leading to struggles with thinking.

Don’t Rationalize or Offer “Quick Fixes” – Don’t try to rationalize with your teen, and don’t offer them any type of medication, even if prescribed. Your teen can’t control their psychosis and trying to “fix” the situation may make your teen more paranoid and suspicious of you. Don’t challenge your teen’s current perception of reality; instead, try maintaining a calm and steady voice. Do your best to talk your teen out of anything that seems dangerous. Once the situation has calmed, you may be able to gently ask your teen if they’ve taken their medications. Don’t pry until you are sure the tension has been diffused.

Talk to a Professional - There is really no way of projecting how the hallucinations or delusions your teen experiences might unfold. Some teens experience harmless and pleasant imagery like puppies, kittens, or butterflies, while others may become violent and destructive. If you lose control of the situation, reach out for professional help immediately. Often, teens who are experiencing Brief Psychotic Disorder need inpatient care temporarily for safety reasons.

What Types of Brief Psychotic Disorder Treatment Are Available?

Teen Brief Psychotic Disorder is described as mild psychosis that lasts for days, but usually only happens very occasionally or even just once. During an episode, your teen may exhibit a number of symptoms ranging from delusions (a distorted sense of reality) to hallucinations (seeing things that don’t exist). They may also seem confused, anxious, paranoid, or angry.

The main goal at Paradigm is to keep teens safe while they learn to re-identify with reality; this process takes time, patience, and the right support. Behavioral therapies are the first line of defense when it comes to treating teen Brief Psychotic Disorder, but medications may also be used to help your teen cope with the fears and anxieties caused by the disorder. If your teen is experiencing delusions or hallucinations, medication can help reduce these symptoms, too.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Otherwise known as talk therapy, CBT helps teens understand how their thoughts impact their behaviors. They learn to identify and manage their thought processes and, as a result, have more control over their emotions and the way they act. Teens who work with trained therapists learn to ward off the symptoms associated with their disorder, preventing or lessening future episodes.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Also known as DBT, dialectical behavior therapy teaches teens to be mindful and to practice distress tolerance. This therapy was initially developed for Borderline Personality Disorder, but it has shown promise in treating psychosis, mania, and a number of other disorders.


Medications are not commonly used for teen Brief Psychotic Disorder itself. When they are used, it is usually a temporary adjunct to therapy to reduce hallucinations or psychosis. The good news is that this disorder very rarely recurs.

That said, doctors may prescribe medications to control the symptoms of underlying disorders, such as Schizophrenia or Depression, that may cause Brief Psychotic Disorder. These treatments include antipsychotics, atypical antipsychotics, anxiety medications, and antidepressants.

Teen Brief Psychotic Disorder Treatment at Paradigm San Francisco

Even though teen Brief Psychotic Disorder is short-lived in nature, professional help is highly recommended. It’s important to assess whether or not your teen is safe on an ongoing basis, especially due to the unpredictable nature of the symptoms. This is easier and more effective in a treatment center with  24-hour care.

Safety is our top priority, but staying at Paradigm San Francisco offers many other incredible benefits for teens. We place special emphasis on making sure your teen is comfortable throughout the treatment process, working to develop a positive mindset in a calming environment. By incorporating group activities, one-on-one therapy sessions, and unique classes, we help teens learn about their conditions and socialize with others. Teens are also encouraged to spend time focusing on some of their favorite hobbies.

A Safe Environment

Again, safety is paramount. Paradigm San Francisco limits the number of teens enrolled in the residential program. This ensures everyone in the program receives the individualized attention they need. Teens receive a blend of alternative therapies, one-on-one therapy sessions, and other appropriate therapies based on their symptoms.

Treatment at Paradigm San Francisco is completely voluntary. Therapy does not work if a teen does not want to participate, so they are encouraged to work at their own pace, communicating with their therapists at all time about any therapy option that makes them feel uncomfortable or resistant. In this way, they play an active role in their own wellness.

I don't know who will see this, but I just thought I'd put it out into the world that Paradigm Malibu changed my life forever. Long story short, I had nothing but anger inside me when I got there, and putting the rest of the world to the side for a while and being present with people I grew to love helped me gain my sense of self back. I'm forever grateful for the people of Paradigm.

– Olivia H.

Frequently Asked Questions About Teen Brief Psychotic Disorder

Why do I need treatment for a disorder that will only last a month?

Even though Brief Psychotic Disorder only lasts around to a month, the symptoms you experience during that time (including hallucinations and delusions) are dangerous and could lead you to harm yourself or someone near you unintentionally, Treatment keeps you safe and minimizes your risk of harm. Simply put, you matter and protecting you is important!

The other reason we recommend inpatient therapy is that teen Brief Psychotic Disorder can (rarely) recur over time. It may also be a red flag or marker for more serious conditions like Schizophrenia or Bipolar Disorder. Inpatient treatment can help you identify your risk factors so you can move forward in confidence. You deserve to be well!

Can I really recover from teen Brief Psychotic Disorder?

The prognosis for teens with this condition is good, especially in comparison to other more severe psychotic disorders. The reality is that psychosis can be incredibly unnerving and frightening, especially if you ignore them. Females are less likely than males to develop a secondary mental health disorder after teen Brief Psychotic Disorder, but people who have a history of Depression, Anxiety, or any other mental health condition have the highest risk. The sooner that root condition and cause is identified, the easier it is to create a treatment plan.

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