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Major depression with psychotic features

Definition

Major depression with psychotic features is a condition in which a person experiences depression along with reduced contact with reality (psychosis). This can take the form of false beliefs (delusions) or seeing or hearing something that isn't really there (hallucinations).

See also:

Alternative Names

Psychotic depression; Delusional depression

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Although there are no obvious risk factors, a family history of depression or psychotic illness increases the chances of developing this condition.

Symptoms

This condition occurs when a depressed person loses touch with reality and hallucinates or has delusions. People with psychotic depression have the combined symptoms of depression and psychosis.

The content of the delusions and hallucinations can be consistent with depression. For example, some people hear voices criticizing them, telling them that they are not good enough or evil, or telling them that they don't deserve to live and should kill themselves. People may develop feelings that their body is filled with cancer, or is ‘rotting inside.' Psychotic depression requires immediate medical attention to prevent self-harm or harm to others.

Signs and tests

Diagnosis involves:

  • Psychiatric evaluation
  • Physical examination
  • Laboratory tests

The health care provider should rule out other medical conditions that can cause the same symptoms (such as reactions to certain drugs).

Treatment

Treatment usually involves antidepressant and antipsychotic medication. Patients sometimes take antipsychotics briefly. Electroconvulsive therapy is very effective for this condition, but it is generally used after medication.

Expectations (prognosis)

Having psychotic symptoms with depression is a serious condition. The depressive symptoms have a higher chance of returning than the psychotic symptoms. You may need to take medication for a long time to prevent depression from returning.

Ongoing treatment and monitoring offer the best chance of recovery.

Complications

Suicide or other self-harm is the most serious complication. You may need to stay in the hospital if you have thoughts of suicide. The safety of others must also be considered.

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if you or someone you know experiences depression or psychosis.

References

Fava M, Cassano P. Mood disorders: Major depressive disorder and dysthymic disorder. In: Stern TA, Rosenbaum JF, Fava M, Biederman J, Rauch SL, eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2008:chap 29.

American Psychiatric Association. Practice guidelines for the treatment of patients with major depressive disorder. 2nd ed. September 2007. Accessed January 22, 2010.


Review Date: 2/14/2010
Reviewed By: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc., and Fred K. Berger, MD, Addiction and Forensic Psychiatrist, Scripps Memorial Hospital, La Jolla, California.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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