Symptoms of Shared Psychotic Disorder that are Often Overlooked

Shared psychotic disorder is a rare type of mental disorder that causes a healthy person show the same  symptoms of a disorder that another person may be actually suffering from. An example would be a person with no mental illness, would begin to exhibit similar behavior as someone that has been diagnosed with Schizophrenia. Shared psychotic disorder will usually develop when the two individuals are in close proximity to one another over a period of time.

The symptoms of shared psychotic disorder are difficult to notice because they closely resemble a disorder that the primary person within their relationship has.  More often than not, the person not diagnosed with the disorder is dependent on the other person and is the more submissive person in the relationship. The development of this disorder can also be linked to social isolation and stress; however, exactly what causes shared psychotic disorder is unknown.


If a person with shared psychotic disorder is close to someone suffering from delusions caused by schizophrenia, they will begin to suffer from induced delusions that are very similar.  Paranoia of authority, conspiracies, or even suffer from hallucinations.  The symptoms the person will exhibit correlate directly with the symptoms of the person within the relationship that is suffering from the mental illness, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Diagnosing Shared Psychotic Disorder

folie a deux

People with shared psychotic disorder have delusions and will take on the symptoms of each other’s mental health conditions.

Shared psychotic disorder mimics a person that is suffering true a mental disorder, there is no clear cut of the disease.   This particular disorder is difficult to diagnose because mental illnesses as a whole, have a very wide range of symptoms.  So many of the signs showing the person may be suffering from shared psychotic disorder often go overlooked.  Another issue making it difficult to diagnose is that usually only one of the persons is seeking help. In these cases, the person can be misdiagnosed and possibly be treated for the disorder they are showing signs of having.

Many times the delusions are very similar between a person actually suffering from the diagnosed illness and someone that is not. Shared psychotic disorder can be thought of as form of brainwashing which happens when those suffering from it are in constant contact with a person with a mental illness and it begins to affect them.

Understanding the surroundings of the person is key to making a good diagnosis, and unfortunately there are so many different disorders in the world it may be hard to know exactly which one they may be exhibiting signs of. Knowing if someone is always in close contact with this person all of the time has a specific disorder, it may be helpful to separate them for lengths of time to see if the symptoms persist. If they do, there is more likely a serious underlying issue. However, if they do not, it is more likely they are suffering from Shared Psychotic Disorder.

Treatment and Prevention

When treating a person suffering from shared psychotic disorder it is important to treat the primary person’s disorder. Another step is to separate the person from the person diagnosed with the actual disorder. Over time, the symptoms that are being seen will generally become less frequent and even disappear.

There are also forms of psychotherapy and family therapy that can help treat the disorder. Medicinal treatments are available as well but would only be considered a short term solution. These forms of treatment are usually reserved if there is not a possibility of long term separation.

If the symptoms have been going on long enough, by the time the person seeks help it may be a chronic disorder. There is so little known of the cause of shared psychotic disorder and the only current method to combat it is an early diagnosis. Overall, this will lessen the impact the disorder will have on a person’s life and treatment gives a person a better chance of recovery.


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