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Understanding Psychotic Depression

There are now many effective treatments available today for psychosis, as well as depression.

The word "psychosis" can stir to mind images ranging from a crime-drama plotline to, perhaps, an expert's commentary on an Investigation Discovery show. But the day-to-day struggles of someone with psychotic depression are much less sensational than those of psychologically troubled people on TV -- and almost never criminal.

In fact, psychosis in general rarely leads to violence [source: Kirn]. What the disorder can cause, however, is a great amount of confusion and suffering on the part of the person who has it -- as well as his or her loved ones.

Both depression and psychosis can occur as standalone disorders, or as symptoms of another illness. For example, depression can be a symptom of bipolar disorder; whereas psychosis can accompany schizophrenia. However, when major depression and psychosis coexist outside of other conditions, it's called psychotic depression.

Despite the fact that depression is a fairly common mental health disorder, the likelihood that it would be present with psychosis is much slimmer. In fact, only about 15 percent of people with major depression exhibit the primary signs of psychosis: hallucinations and delusions [source: Croft].

As a team, depression and psychosis can be particularly harmful -- putting their victims at risk for alienation, reduced quality of life, hospitalization and even suicide. And while psychotic depression is not a common mood disorder, it accounts for more than a quarter of all hospital admittances for depression [source: WebMD].

Even though psychotic depression is a serious problem, the news isn't all bad. Most people with the condition can expect to recover from the depression and the psychosis. And new studies in brain imagining suggest that computer analysis of brain scans may be able to help doctors predict the severity of psychotic episodes, allowing for better, more customized treatments [source: Kelland].

To better understand psychosis and other symptoms related to psychotic depression, keep reading.