The causes of the brief psychotic disorder are not fully understood yet. But scientists suspect a few possible causes such as stress factors, severe illness, accidents, family conflicts, death of a loved one or other significant traumatic events.
There are more theories concerning the causes of brief psychotic disorder but clinical studies conducted so far validated none of the psychological or biological theories developed until now.
The most promising theory so far is the psychodynamic theory which suggests that the symptoms of brief psychotic disorder might be present as a defense against a forbidden fantasy, as an escape from a very stressful situation or a particular psychological situation. The same theory suggests it might also be present due to an inappropriate coping mechanism. In some women the disorder might be triggered by childbirth.
There are studies that suggest a genetic predisposition to brief psychotic disorder. According to the some data, increased prevalence of mood disorders might be more common in the families of people with brief psychotic disorder.
The symptoms of the brief psychotic disorder vary from culture to culture and seem to be shaped by the traditions and expectations of the culture where the affected person lives. A very eloquent example is the bouffee delirante, a culture bound, non-schizophrenic and non-affective disorder, specific and pretty common in Haiti and West Africa which is very similar to the brief psychotic disorder.
But the culture is not only defining the psychotic symptoms it is also important in the distinction between what should be considered a psychotic symptoms and what should not be considered a symptom.
For example in certain religions “speaking in tongues” is viewed as a gift from God. From a strict psychological perspective it might be seen as psychotic symptom.
The brief psychotic disorder is also believed to be related to other culture bound disorders such as koro, latah and amok.
The disorder is diagnosed by interviewing the patient and close friends and family. A mental status examination, which is a semi-structured interview, might also be performed.
The mental status examination is meant to determine the abilities of the affected person to think logically, remember, concentrate and understand a situation realistically.
According to the DSM one or more symptoms should be present and the duration of an episode should be less than one month and at least one day.
If the symptoms last for more than a month a diagnosis of schizophrenia might be given.
Also the symptoms should not be related to any mood disorder, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, substance abuse or other medical condition.
The cultural aspects should also be considered when evaluating the symptoms. If the symptoms are acceptable in the patient’s culture then the patient will not be diagnosed with brief psychotic disorder.
So far there is no standard test to diagnose brief psychotic disorder but some laboratory tests such as brain imaging or blood tests might be used to rule out other possible problems.
The term differential diagnosis refers to other possible diagnoses that should be considered for people presenting brief psychotic disorder symptoms.
The differential diagnoses include malingering, delirium, dissociative disorder, factitious disorder, delusional disorder, schizoaffective disorder, schizophrenia, schizophreniform disorder and schizoaffective disorder.
The diagnosis in the case of brief psychotic disorder might be difficult to identify and the specialized help of a mental health professional is mandatory.