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Are Psychotics Mentally Ill?

Updated on March 20, 2012

People who manifest psychotic episodes are not necessarily mentally ill, although the terms psychosis and psychotic are so entwined with the term mental illness, that it is believed that only a mentally ill person would behave in a psychotic manner.

The word 'Psychotic' originates from the word psychosis which is a general psychiatric term for a mental state of mind and is often used to describe an individual as ‘someone losing touch with reality’. The physical exhibitions of psychosis are manifested when a person has a psychotic break. They may experience hallucinations, delusions, hear voices and impaired insight may occur.

Mental illness may be defined as a medical condition that interrupts a person's emotions, such as thinking, feelings and mood, and prevents them from being able to communicate with others and function daily. As diabetes is considered a disorder of the pancreas, so mental illness is a disorder of the mind, which may be caused by social, psychological, biochemical or genetic impairment that often results in a diminished capacity to cope with the every-day demands of life.

The Psychotic Who Is Not Mentally Ill

There are many people who, despite being in good mental health experience psychotic episodes. Why is this? There are a couple explanations, one is substance abuse. Psychoactive substances have been implicated in causing, psychotic episodes. Substances such as alcohol, drugs (legal and illegal), cannabis and even large quantities of caffeine can induce psychotic symptoms. However, the individuals that manifest a psychotic episode following the misuse of any of the substances aforementioned are not usually mentally ill. For example, a diabetic in a heightened state because their diabetes has not been properly controlled (having a hypo or hyper) can exhibit behavioural symptoms that may appear psychotic, i.e. confused thinking and incoherent speech, but they are not mentally ill.

Another explanation is that the differentiation between the symbolic and the real may be intentional. For example, an individual who has committed murder may conveniently claim to have a mental illness in order to explain away their criminal behaviour as psychotic, especially if they are sentenced to a life imprisonment. The plea of diminished responsibility could lead to a lesser sentence for this individual who is not really mentally ill.

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The Psychotic That Is Mentally Ill

However, it must be said that the majority of psychotics are really mentally ill. They have the common condition of psychosis, which is the mental illness that makes them psychotic. These psychotics are people who have one or more of the many mental disorders listed below, but it is mainly people diagnosed with schizophrenia and bi-polar that experience psychosis.

Mental Health Disorders in which psychosis can occur are; schizophrenia, bi-polar, OCD, depression, panic and anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and personality disorders. In there severe form these diseases may render a person out of touch with reality.

In conclusion, it can be said that the majority of psychotics are mentally ill, whilst a small minority are not.

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