People living with psychotic illness 2010

Nature of the illness, symptoms and functioning

Page last updated: November 2011

Psychotic illnesses can severely impact upon people's ability to function in their daily lives.

One in twelve people (8.1%) had experienced just one episode of psychotic illness, while the majority (61.5%) had experienced multiple episodes with periods of good or partial recovery in between (29.7% and 31.8% respectively) (figure 6).

Many people (30.5%) receiving services through the public system have continual chronic illness and one third of these experience marked deterioration over time.

The most common symptoms of psychotic illness are delusions and hallucinations (figure 7).

  • 86.7% experienced delusions in their lifetime and 41.3% currently.
  • 78.9% experienced hallucinations in their lifetime and 37.5% currently.
A range of other symptoms, some of which are associated with other mental disorders, such as depression and anxiety, are also commonly experienced by people with psychotic illness.
  • Depressed mood, loss of pleasure and poor concentration are frequently associated with psychotic illness, with one quarter of people currently reporting each of these symptoms (26.4%, 24.5% and 23.4% respectively).
  • Over the past year, 59.8% of participants reported symptoms of anxiety and just over half (54.5%) reported one or more symptoms of depression.


One half (51.2%) of people with psychotic illness, were assessed at interview to have been functioning well in both occupational and social domains prior to the onset of their illness.
  • 70.8% of the total had been in either paid or unpaid work or studying, 68.7% had good adjustment within these roles and 63.9% reported good social functioning before the onset of first symptoms.
Most people (90.4%) reported deterioration of functioning after illness onset (table 2).

One third (32.3%) were assessed as having a significant level of impairment in their ability to care for themselves in the previous 4 weeks and almost one-fifth (18.4%) was unable to complete a simple chore such as cleaning their room.

Two thirds (63.2%) were assessed as having a significant level of dysfunction in their capacity to socialise over the past year.

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Figure 6: Course of illness

Refer to the following list for a text equivalent of figure 6: course of illness

Text version of figure 6

Course of illness:
  • Single episode - 8.1%
  • Multiple episodes with good recovery in between - 29.7%
  • Multiple episodes with partial recovery in between - 31.8%
  • Continuous chronic illness - 20.6%
  • Continuous chronic illness with deterioration - 9.9%
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Figure 7: Current symptoms of psychotic disorders

Refer to the following list for a text equivalent of figure 7: current symptoms of psychotic disorders

Text version of figure 7

Current symptoms of psychotic disorders:
  • Delusions - 41.3%
  • Hallucinations - 37.5%
  • Depressed mood - 26.4%
  • Loss of pleasure - 24.5%
  • Poor concentration - 23.4%
  • Irritability - 6.7%
  • Elevated mood - 4.9%
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Table 2: Level of impairment

Table 2 is presented as a list in this HTML version for accessibility reasons. It is presented as a table in the PDF version.

Proportion of level of impairment:
  • Deterioration from pre-onset functioning - 90.4%
  • Obvious/severe dysfunction in socialising, past year - 63.2%
  • Obvious/severe dysfunction in self care, past 4 weeks - 32.3%