People U.S. in 1989 and carry a much

People with psychotic disorders, which include schizophrenia and the manic phases of bipolar disorder, are typically prescribed one or more antipsychotic medications. Learn about those medications here.

What Does ‘Psychotic’ Even Mean?

A psychotic disorder is one that causes a break with reality.

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This means a person’s disease has robbed him or her of organized, clear, and rational thinking to the point that the afflicted party lives in his or her own world. These psychotic worlds are full of hallucinations (seeing or hearing something, such as voices, that no one else can) and delusions (bizarre thinking such as believing they are god or that the police are chasing them).Living with psychotic symptoms is all-encompassing. People with these disorders lose their families, friends and jobs and can no longer financially support themselves. Psychotic symptoms may also make these individuals a danger to themselves – the risk of suicide is very high – and a potential danger to others. They are often agitated. Put simply, they are in dire need of medical help.


The go-to treatment for psychotic disorders (including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder) is medication. Medications are classified by which brain chemicals they are designed to adjust and which symptoms they are best at helping. Antipsychotic medications typically treat psychotic symptoms by decreasing a brain chemical called dopamine. Often more than one medication is used and the dose or amount has to be tailored by the psychiatrist on a patient-by-patient basis.

Types and Classifications

Antipsychotic medications are very strong tranquilizers that were first used on horses. The early use of medications, such as Thorazine in the 1950s, came with many permanent side effects.

These early medications are called typical antipsychotics.In 1989, Second Generation or atypical antipsychotics were approved in the U.S. While atypical antipsychotics are less effective, the risk of death is lower, as is the potential for long-term side effects. Some examples are olanzapine and risperidone.

The newest, introduced in 2006, is paliperidone. This drug is long-lasting and is injected once per month. This has the advantage of not being taken daily; many people with schizophrenia have memory problems and find it hard to keep up with frequently scheduled medications.

Lesson Summary

Antipsychotic medications are strong tranquilizers taken to help patients afflicted with psychotic disorders, or disorders that cause a break from reality. They typically work by decreasing a brain chemical called dopamine. Typical antipsychotics like Thorazine were first used on humans in the 1950s with great risk.

Second generation or atypical antipsychotics came into use in the U.S. in 1989 and carry a much lower risk of death and more grave side effects.

Learning Outcomes

After you finish reading, you should be able to:

  • Identify the symptoms of psychotic disorders
  • Discuss the importance of treatment for psychotic disorders
  • List the types of antipsychotic medications available

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