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The Student with Psychotic Features

The main feature of psychotic thinking is poor reality testing or “being out of touch with reality.”

Symptoms include:

  • disorganized speech and behavior
  • extremely odd or eccentric behavior
  • inappropriate or complete lack of emotion
  • bizarre behavior that could indicate hallucinations
  • strange beliefs that involve a serious misinterpretation of reality
  • social withdrawal
  • inability to connect with or track normal communication

Bipolar disorder involves periods of serious depression combined with periods of extreme euphoria and frenzied thinking and behavior, the latter of which can reflect poor reality testing.

Psychological illnesses that involve psychotic features often have an onset between the late teens and early 30s.

  • Consult with a professional at the Counseling Center, at (301) 314-7651, or the Health Center’s Behavioral Health Service, at (301) 314-8106.
  • Speak to the student in a direct and concrete manner regarding your plan for getting him/her to a safe environment.
  • For immediate assistance, walk the student to the Counseling Center or to the Behavioral Health Service in the Health Center. For assistance with a highly impaired student, call University Police at (301) 405-3333, or call 911 if you are off-campus.
  • Recognize that psychotic states can involve extreme emotion or lack of emotion and intense fear to the point of paranoia.
  • Recognize that a student who is combative in this state of disorientation may be dangerous to self or others.
  • Assuming the student will be able to care for him/herself.
  • Agitating the student.
  • Arguing with unrealistic thoughts.
  • Assuming the student understands you.
  • Allowing friends to care for the student without getting professional advice.
  • Getting locked into one way of dealing with the student. Be flexible.
  • Assuming the family knows about the student’s condition.
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