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Components of Psychosis, Schizophrenia & Lifespan Disorders

Updated on August 24, 2012

Psychoses, schizophrenia, childhood and developmental disorders can harshly decrease human functioning. The factors that these disorders consist of vary widely but defining and understanding each of these factor assists in creating more effective therapeutic applications, interventions and prevention of these disorders.


Biological Component

Psychosis may be triggered by an organic cause such as epilepsy, brain tumors, and cerebrovascular disease. Also research has found that metabolic conditions such as porphyria, endocrine conditions, electrolyte imbalance, autoimmune disorders and renal failure all can cause psychosis (Psychosis, n.d.). Psychosis can be a major symptom of several psychopathologies such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, delusional disorder and some personality disorders (Hansell & Damour, 2008). Another biological component of psychosis is substance abuse. Research has linked some elicit substances such as marijuana, to psychotic episodes (Psychosis, n.d.).

Emotional Component

Though typically centered on biological components, psychotic episodes, either short-lived or long-lasting are terrifying and emotionally draining. Additionally, psychosis hampers one’s ability to communicate feelings, feel emotionally involved with others because of the individual’s lack of ability to sustain a connection to reality. Some psychodynamic theorists believe that repressed emotions are the cause of some types of psychoses, but typically biological components are stressed (Hansell & Damour, 2008).

Cognitive Component

Cognitive difficulties have been identified as an element of psychosis since the early 20th century (PEPP, 2011). Research shows that some people that suffer from psychosis also tend to have deficiencies in the regions of memory and verbal learning, speed of thinking and in concentration/attention (PEPP, 2011). Scientists have established solid evidence that these deficiencies have significant effects for the social functioning of individuals suffering from psychotic disorders (PEPP, 2011).

Behavioral Component

Drug-induced psychosis is common, according to research, in the United States, approximately 3% of individuals with alcoholism experience an episode of psychosis during severe intoxication event or when going through withdrawal (Larson, 2011). Dangerous behaviors because of a psychotic episode such as self-mutilation, drug abuse, and risky sexual behaviors can cause complications for an individual. Often therapy includes behavior modification that can help one produce different patterns socially accepted behavior (Hansell & Damour, 2008).


Biological Components

Researchers now agree that schizophrenia develops as a result of brain development disruption. According to, an Internet Mental Health Initiative, theorists believe that this disruption in brain development is partly due to genetic predispositions and environmental stressors that occur early in prenatal /infant development. This disruption leads to subtle variations in the brain which has been theorized to make a person more predisposed to developing schizophrenia (Internet Mental Health Initiative, 2010). There is for sure a solid genetic component to schizophrenia, as those individuals with immediate family members that have a history of schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders have a considerably greater risk for developing schizophrenia than that of the general population (Hansell & Damour, 2008)

Emotional Components

According to Freud, biological factors were responsible for schizophrenia and that his psychotherapeutic treatments could treat individuals that suffered from schizophrenia. But Freud did believe that all abnormal behavior did have roots in repressed emotional and internal conflicts and these repressed events could predispose an individual to schizophrenia (Hansell & Damour, 2008). Currently psychodynamic theorists believe that psychotherapy will help individuals suffering from schizophrenia understand the repressed emotions and internal conflicts that may exacerbate the abnormal behavior (Frey, 2003).

Cognitive Component

One of the symptoms of schizophrenia is the individual’s incapability to stop irrelevant or inappropriate stimuli. This inability provides credibility to hallucinations and delusions that an individual may suffer (Hansell & Damour, 2008). Additional problems may come about when schizophrenic individuals attempt to explain these delusions and hallucinations that they experiences to themselves (Harrison, 2007).

Behavioral Component

Behavioral theorists concentrate on the role that learning plays in abnormal behavior. According to this perspective, an individual will need to learn different adaptive behaviors that will in turn lessen some of the problems such as social withdrawal that schizophrenics undergo. Behaviorists center their focus on biological causes of maladaptive learning and stress the reinforcement of new behaviors that help the person reshape their cognitive outlook (Frey, 2003). Because one of the symptoms of schizophrenia is increased attention to environmental stimuli and a disproportionate amount of self- attention, a modification in an individual’s thinking on which stimuli should be given attention will help the individual to behave normally (Hansell & Damour, 2008).

Lifespan Development Disorders and Childhood Disorders

Biological Component

Lifespan development disorders such as mental retardation have biological bases such a genetic abnormality, prenatal complications and metabolic deficiencies (Hansell & Damour, 2008). Childhood disorders such as learning disorders, autism and ADHD, also have biological components such as brain abnormalities, genetics and neurotransmitter deficiencies. Other disorders such as amnesia and dementia may be caused by injuries to the brain or from organic deterioration.

Emotional Component

Emotional elements such as distress are major factors in children that are diagnosed with attention deficit disorders (NIH, 2011). Learning disorders also affects a child emotionally because they may be ridiculed or teased because they are not as “smart” as other children in their class. On the other end of the spectrum, an older adult that is suffering from amnesia or from dementia would also suffer emotionally, because they would not be able to remember themselves, their families or what they used to be like.

Cognitive/Behavioral Component

Because many childhood disorders are focused on learning disorders, children that are affected by these disorders may feel depressed or anxious because of their lower achievement. This in turn may cause a child to act out both in school and at home. Children/adolescents with disruptive behavior disorders often have a maladaptive sense of other’s behaviors and hostility. Because of this maladaptive scheme, these children form hostile answers to their problems without a contemplation of their consequences (Hansell & Damour, 2008). Older adults that suffer from dementia may behave in ways that are socially inappropriate because they are not aware of what they are doing. Such things have caused embarrassment to unsuspecting family members and/or visitors.


Even though psychoses, schizophrenia, and lifetime/childhood disorders look as if they do not have much in common, but each one of these disorders has a substantial basic biological elements that can cause emotional, behavioral and cognitive effects. By assessing each component, researchers gain more knowledge in every aspect of these disorders. This ever-expanding knowledge leads to more effective treatments and diagnoses.


Frey, R. J. (2003). Schizophrenia. Gale Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders, (), . Retrieved from

Harrison, C. (2007). Basics of schizophrenia . Retrieved from

Internet Mental Health Initiative. (2010). Schizophrenia cause and prevention. Retrieved from

Larson, M. F. (2011). Alcohol-Related Psychosis Clinical Presentation. MedScape Reference , (), . Retrieved from

National Institutes of Health. (2011). Learning Disorders: MedlinePlus. National Library of Medicine - National Institutes of Health. Retrieved Nov 14, 2011, from

Prevention and Early Intervention Program for Psychoses (PEPP). (2011). Screening & Assessment . Retrieved from

psychosis. (n.d.) Dorland's Medical Dictionary for Health Consumers. (2007). Retrieved November 14 2011 from


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