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Alternative Names Return to topPsychotic depression; Delusional depression
Definition Return to top
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).
Causes Return to top
Although there are no obvious risk factors, a family history of depression or psychotic illness increases the chances of developing this condition.
Symptoms Return to top
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. Psychotic depression requires immediate medical attention to prevent self-harm or harm to others.
Exams and Tests Return to top
The health care provider should rule out other medical conditions that can cause the same symptoms (such as reactions to certain drugs).
Treatment Return to top
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.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
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.
Possible Complications Return to top
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.
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your health care provider if you or someone you know experiences depression or psychosis.
References Return to top
Jarema M. Atypical antipsychotics in the treatment of mood disorders. Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2007;20:23-29.Update Date: 1/15/2009 Updated by: Christos Ballas, MD, Attending Psychiatrist, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.