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Understanding Psychosis

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  1. An Introduction to Psychotic Disorders
    What is Psychosis?
  2. Introduction to Psychosis and Treatment Options
  3. The Signs & Symptoms of Psychosis
    The Signs & Symptoms of Psychosis
  4. Delusions
    3 Topics
  5. Hallucinations
    1 Topic
  6. Reacting to Psychotic Experiences
  7. The Causes of Psychosis
    Exploring the Causes of Psychosis
  8. Diagnosing Psychotic Disorders
    The Diagnosis of Schizophrenia
  9. The Diagnosis of Schizoaffective Disorder
    5 Topics
  10. Treatment for Psychosis
    Treatment Available for Psychosis
    5 Topics
  11. What Are Antipsychotic Drugs?
    8 Topics
  12. The Side Effects of Antipsychotics
    12 Topics
  13. Mental Health Services
    Hospital Admission and Crisis Services
  14. Community Care and Advocacy for Psychosis
  15. Living with Psychosis
    Overcoming Psychotic Experiences
  16. How Can I Help Myself During a Psychotic Episode?
  17. What Can Family & Friends Do to Help?
  18. Challenging Stereotypes and Stigma
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In this lesson, we will delve into the world of antipsychotic medications and explore the two main types: typical (1st generation) and atypical (2nd generation). We will compare their effectiveness and side effects, as well as provide an overview of the different chemical groups within the older antipsychotics. By understanding these distinctions, readers will gain a deeper understanding of how these drugs work and how they can be used to treat psychosis.

The Distinction Between Typical and Atypical Antipsychotics:

To truly grasp the intricacies of antipsychotic medications, it is crucial to comprehend the distinction between typical and atypical antipsychotics. Typical antipsychotics were among the first developed to treat psychosis in the 1950’s, while atypical antipsychotics are newer (1990’s) medications that have evolved over time.

Effectiveness and Side Effects

When it comes to effectiveness, both types have shown positive results in managing symptoms associated with psychosis. However, atypical antipsychotics have gained popularity due to their ability to target a wider range of symptoms while minimising certain side effects commonly associated with typical antipsychotics.

Typical antipsychotics predominantly work by blocking dopamine receptors in the brain. While effective in reducing hallucinations and delusions, they often come with a significant drawback – extrapyramidal side effects. These can include muscle stiffness, tremors, and even involuntary movements known as tardive dyskinesia. On the other hand, atypical antipsychotics not only target dopamine receptors but also affect other neurotransmitters such as serotonin. This broader spectrum allows for a reduction in extrapyramidal side effects while still effectively managing psychotic symptoms.

Chemical Groups within Older Antipsychotics

Within typical or first-generation antipsychotic medications lie various chemical groups that further differentiate them from one another. These groups include phenothiazines, butyrophenones, and thioxanthenes. Each group has its own unique chemical structure and slightly different effects on the brain, providing doctors with a range of options when prescribing antipsychotics based on an individual’s specific needs.

Phenothiazines, the most commonly used group of typical antipsychotics, include medications such as chlorpromazine and fluphenazine. Butyrophenones like haloperidol are known for their potency in managing severe psychotic symptoms. Lastly, thioxanthenes such as flupentixol offer a balance between efficacy and side effect profile.


In this lesson, we have explored the two main types of antipsychotic medications: typical and atypical. We have seen how atypical antipsychotics have become more favoured due to their broader range of symptom management and reduced side effects compared to typical antipsychotics. Additionally, we have delved into the various chemical groups within older antipsychotics, providing readers with a deeper understanding of the options available within these categories.

By understanding the distinctions between these types of medications and their unique characteristics, readers will be better equipped to navigate the world of antipsychotic treatment. Armed with this knowledge, individuals can engage in informed discussions with their healthcare providers to identify the most suitable medication for their specific needs.

Course Discussion