What Is a Psychotic Snap and Can It Be Prevented?

What Is a Psychotic Snap and Can It Be Prevented?

In the wake of the Colorado movie theater massacre, the shooting at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin, and the shooting on the Texas A&M campus, many people are wondering if there were signs that the shooter was becoming increasingly psychotic before the incident and if the whole thing could have been prevented with early identification of symptoms and appropriate mental health treatment. The specifics of the Aurora, CO shooting are still being investigated, but experts say that individuals who are about to have a psychotic break lose touch with the external reality happening around them in a way that can be identifiable to others.

Psychosis is not a mental health diagnosis, but a symptom of a larger issue. There are a number of causes for a psychotic break and often a serious or untreated mental disorder may be at the root of the problem. Any of the following may be a possible cause for a psychotic episode:

Does Psychosis Happen Instantaneously or Slowly Over Time?

Since many people use the term “psychotic snap,” the implication is that the symptoms can happen in a split second. However, expert psychologists say psychosis often occurs after a slow progression.

Todd Essig is a clinical assistant professor in psychiatry at New York Medical College. He says: “…it would be more accurate to describe it as a slide than a snap, with some slides being steeper than others.”

Unfortunately, it is quite common for people sliding into psychosis to isolate themselves from friends and family, so there is no objective observer who can connect the dots and intervene.

The symptoms of psychosis include:

  • Hallucinations characterized by losing touch with the five senses
  • Delusions
  • Disordered thinking
  • Absence of affect
  • Manic thoughts and/or speech

Violence and Psychosis Do Not Go Hand in Hand

Because only the most aggressive and violent acts of psychotic individuals make the news – like the recent shootings in Colorado, Wisconsin and Texas – most people think that that defines all people’s experience with psychosis part. This myth breeds fear and misunderstanding. However, Essig says that, more often than not, those individuals suffering from psychosis are actually more apt to be the victim of violence rather than the perpetrator. He writes in Forbes magazine: “People who suffer from psychosis deserve our compassion and help, not our fear.”

Do you believe that someone you love is building up to a psychotic event? Intervention and treatment can help. Call us today to discuss your loved one’s options in mental health treatment.