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Brief Psychotic Disorder Symptoms

Brief psychotic disorder — also known as brief reactive psychosis —  is a mental disorder that is typically diagnosed in a person’s late 20s or early 30s. Brief reactive psychosis can be thought of as time-limited schizophrenia that is resolved within one month’s time.

It is characterized by the presence of one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Disorganized speech (e.g., frequent derailment or incoherence)
  • Grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior

Duration of an episode of brief psychosis is at least one day but less than one month, with eventual full return to previous level of functioning.

The disturbance can occur as a response to extreme life stress or with postpartum onset. This disturbance cannot be due to the direct physiological effects of a substance or drug (such as a prescription medication, or an illicit drug like cocaine), or a general medication condition.

  • Severity is rated by a quantitative assessment of the primary symptoms of psychosis, including delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, abnormal psychomotor behavior, and negative symptoms. Each of these symptoms may be rated for its current severity (most severe in the last 7 days) on a 5-point scale ranging from 0 (not present) to 4 (present and severe).

Differential Diagnoses

Differential diagnoses — diagnoses that may be considered instead of brief psychotic disorder — include a mood disorder with psychotic features, schizoaffective disorder, or schizophrenia.

After a month has passed, and if the person is still exhibiting symptoms consistent with brief psychotic disorder, a diagnosis of schizophrenia is often considered.


This disorder has been updated according to DSM-5 criteria

John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Dr. John Grohol is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Psych Central. He is an author, researcher, and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 1995. Dr. Grohol has a Master's degree and doctorate in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member of the Society for Participatory Medicine. You can learn more about Dr. John Grohol here.

APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2020). Brief Psychotic Disorder Symptoms. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2020 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2020
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