In her first year in college, Jazmine was overwhelmed and stressed with a heavy course schedule, assignments, and deadlines. To keep on track, she decided to use sticky notes and reminders on her phone.

One day in class, Jazmine began to hallucinate, seeing sticky notes around the classroom walls and desks. She also believed that she was hearing people whispering codes during her exams.

Girl looking at sticky notes on the board. Photo by Tai Jyun Chang on Unsplash

Jazmine couldn't finish her first year at college. She was later diagnosed with a psychotic disorder.

What Is a Psychotic Disorder?

Psychotic disorders are illnesses that affect a person's mind and behavior. A person's mind and thoughts become disconnected from reality.

Different types of psychotic disorders are diagnosed based on the presence of the following symptoms:

  • Cognitive symptoms — any symptoms that involve thinking

    • Examples: poor attention, inability to concentrate, and poor memory

  • Positive symptoms — any symptoms that add thoughts and behaviors that aren't usually present in a person

    • Examples: having non-realistic ideas, thoughts, and acts, including hallucinations, delusions, disorganized speech, and catatonic behavior (ceasing to speak or remaining motionless for an extended period of time)

  • Negative symptoms — the absence of thoughts and behaviors that are usually present in a person

    • Examples: the absence of usual social interaction, expression of emotions, loss of motivation or energy, and catatonic behavior (ceasing to speak or remaining motionless for an extended period of time)

Man riding the bus showing no facial expressions


Schizophrenia is one of the most common psychotic disorders.

It's diagnosed based on the presence of 2 or more cognitive, negative, and positive symptoms over the course of 1 month for a substantial amount of time (or less if successfully treated).

At least 1 of the symptoms from the categories below must be present:

1: Hallucinations

  • hearing voices or seeing things that do not exist

  • feeling unusual sensations

Example: Jazmine was seeing sticky notes and hearing people whispering codes during her exams.

A man hallucinating

2: Delusions

  • having irrational beliefs of being followed or threatened

  • believing that they possess superpowers or receive messages from a deity

  • believing that people can add thoughts to their head, or can hear or read their thoughts...

Examples: "The FBI is following me," or, "I have a message from God."

A man looking suspiciously around him

3: Thought Disorder or Disorganized Speech

  • having disorganized or incoherent thoughts or speech

  • speaking meaningless words or jumping from one topic to another incoherently

Example: "My wife abandoned me. She's evil. Do you have kids? I love kids!"

Schizoaffective Disorder

Schizoaffective disorder refers to an illness that exhibits the psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia alongside a mood disorder. You can learn more about these specific characteristics here.

Female sitting crouched in an armchair feeling depressed Photo by Dmitry Schemelev on Unsplash

There are two types of schizoaffective disorder:

  • Depressive — depressive symptoms are present most of the time in addition to the psychotic symptoms.

  • Bipolar — both manic and depressive symptoms are present most of the time in addition to the psychotic symptoms.

Delusional Disorder

A delusional disorder is diagnosed when a person is mainly experiencing delusions. Apart from their delusions, they can continue to interact with others and carry out their usual daily activities.

man behind a tree stalking woman as she enters a residential building

A person with symptoms of delusional disorder:

  • frequently lacks self-awareness that their delusions are harmful, irrational, and problematic and becomes preoccupied with their delusions

  • is unable to accept that their delusions are false even with evidence that their delusion has no reality

The main themes of the delusion can be:

  • Jealous — believing that their partner or spouse is being unfaithful

  • Erotomanic — believing that someone (often a well-known person) is in love with them

  • Grandiose — over-exaggerating their self-worth and power, or believing they have genius talent or knowledge

  • Persecutory — believing people are following them, spying on them, or planning to harm them

  • Somaticbelieving a physical or medical problem affects their appearance or body

A person may have mixed themes (two or more types of delusions).

How Can I Help?

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Jazmine has become more isolated. She misses most of her classes and rarely leaves her room. Jazmine believes that it might just be stress and she'll get better soon.


How could you help Jazmine as a friend? Select all that apply.

Take Action

Ask for help Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Recognize the symptoms of psychotic disorders and get early treatment to increase the possibility of recovery.


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