Major depression with psychotic features

  • Definition
    • Major depression with psychotic features is a mental disorder in which a person has depression along with loss of touch with reality (psychosis).

  • Alternative Names
    • Psychotic depression; Delusional depression

  • Causes
    • The cause is unknown. A family or personal history of depression or psychotic illness makes you more likely to develop this condition.

  • Symptoms
    • People with psychotic depression have symptoms of depression and psychosis.

      Psychosis is a loss of contact with reality. It usually includes:

      • Delusions: False beliefs about what is taking place or who one is
      • Hallucinations: Seeing or hearing things that aren't there

      The types of delusions and hallucinations are often related to your depressed feelings. For example, some patients may hear voices criticizing them, or telling them that they don't deserve to live. The person may develop false beliefs about their body, for example, that they have cancer.

  • Exams and Tests
    • Your health care provider will perform a physical exam and ask questions about your medical history and symptoms. Your answers and certain questionnaires can help your health care provider diagnose this condition and determine how severe it may be.

      Blood and urine tests and possibly a brain scan may be done to rule out other medical conditions with similar symptoms.

  • Treatment
    • Psychotic depression requires immediate medical care and treatment.

      Treatment usually involves antidepressant and antipsychotic medicine. You may only need antipsychotic medicine for a short period of time.

      Electroconvulsive therapy can help treat depression with psychotic symptoms. However, medicine is usually tried first.

  • Outlook (Prognosis)
    • This is a serious condition. You will need immediate treatment and close monitoring by a health care provider.

      You may need to take medicine for a long time to prevent the depression from coming back. Depression symptoms are more likely to return than psychotic symptoms.

  • Possible Complications
    • The risk of suicide is much higher in people with depression with psychotic symptoms than in those without psychosis. You may need to stay in the hospital if you have thoughts of suicide. The safety of other people must also be considered.

  • When to Contact a Medical Professional
    • If you have thoughts of suicide or harming yourself or others, immediately call your local emergency number (such as 911) or go to the hospital emergency room.

      You may also call a suicide hotline from anywhere in the United States, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week: 1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-999-9999.

      Call your health care provider right away if:

      • You hear voices that are not there.
      • You have frequent crying spells with little or no reason.
      • Your depression is disrupting work, school, or family life.
      • You think that your current medicines are not working or are causing side effects. Never change or stop any medicines without first talking to your provider.
  • References
    • American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th ed. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing. 2013.

      American Psychiatric Association. Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients with Major Depressive Disorder. 3rd edition. October 2010. Available at: Accessed: March 10, 2014.