Psychotic Disorders | El Camino Hospital

Psychotic Disorders

Psychotic Disorders

Psychotic disorders, or psychoses, are severe mental disorders that cause abnormal thinking and perceptions. Psychotic illnesses alter your ability to understand reality and behave appropriately.
The primary symptoms of psychoses are hallucinations and delusions. Hallucinations are perceptions of things that don’t exist, such as hearing voices; seeing, smelling or tasting things that aren’t there; or feeling something touching you when there’s nothing there. Delusions are false beliefs, such as believing that others are plotting against you (paranoia) or that you're receiving secret messages — beliefs that persist even when facts prove otherwise. Schizophrenia is an example of a psychotic disorder.

The exact cause of psychotic disorders is unknown, but researchers believe that a number of factors play a role, including heredity and environmental factors. In some cases, there may be an abnormality in brain chemistry that can contribute to symptoms. Use of marijuana, methamphetamine, LSD, amphetamines and other drugs can increase the risk of developing psychotic disorders, particularly in younger people. 

Certain illnesses, medications and neurologic conditions — such as a brain tumors, Parkinson’s disease and dementia — can cause symptoms. In those instances, psychotic symptoms can often be reversible. 

Early Warning Signs of Psychotic Illness

Symptoms of psychotic disorders usually appear in people in their late teens through their 30s. People in their 40s or older who develop symptoms are more likely to have an underlying illness that’s causing the symptoms. 

Common and early warning signs of psychotic illness include:
  • Alarming decline in school or work performance.
  • Difficulty thinking clearly or concentrating.
  • Suspiciousness or uneasiness with others, and spending more time alone that usual.
  • Increased sensitivity to sights or sounds, or mistaking noises for voices.
  • Strange new feelings or lack of feelings. 
  • Overly intense or unusual new ideas.
  • Decline in personal hygiene or self-care.

Sometimes, the early signs of psychotic illness can mimic the symptoms of depression or bipolar disorder.


Diagnosis and Treatment

Once a underlying medical condition has been ruled out, most psychotic disorders are treated with a combination of medications — including antipsychotic, antidepressant and neuroleptic medications — psychotherapy and other techniques, depending on the individual.

At El Camino Hospital, our mental health professionals are specially trained to diagnose and treat psychotic disorders. We offer both inpatient and outpatient programs to provide all levels of care, including electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

Our multidisciplinary team of psychiatrists, specialized nurses, therapists and other mental health professionals delivers care with compassion and respect. Because psychotic illness affects the entire family, we provide education and support to you and your loved ones. Our mental health specialists are dedicated to helping individuals and families cope effectively with mental illness.


Talk to Someone

Inquire about services or get a physician referral. Our call-back and chat services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Contact a Program Specialist

To make an appointment, get information, schedule a free assessment or refer someone, call 866-789-6089 or 650-988-8468 between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.


If you or someone else is having suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or call 911 immediately.

Insurance & Fees

Most insurance plans cover the cost of care for psychotic disorders treatment. Psychiatrist fees are separate from hospital program fees. Visit billing information and mental health insurance information for more information.