Dealing With a Student Who Seems Disoriented or Psychotic


The main feature of psychotic thinking is “being out of touch with reality.”

 Symptoms include:

  • Speech that makes no sense
  • Extremely odd or eccentric behavior
  • Inappropriate or complete lack of emotion
  • Bizarre behavior that could indicate hallucinations
  • Strange beliefs that involve a serious misinterpretation of reality
  • Social withdrawal
  • Inability to connect with or track normal communication
  • Extreme or unwarranted suspicion

Bipolar disorder involves periods of serious depression combined with period of extreme euphoria and frenzied thinking and behavior, the latter of which can reflect a poor reality. A person with bipolar disorder can become psychotic.

Psychological illnesses that involve psychotic features often have an onset between the late teens and early 30s. Psychotic symptoms may also be induced by medications reaction and/or substance abuse.


  • Call the University Police at 828.227.8911 if the student is highly impaired and/or is extremely disruptive.
  • Consult with a professional at Counseling and Psychological Services (828.227.7469).
  • Speak to the student in a direct and concrete manner regarding your plan for getting him/her to a safe environment.
  • Accompany the student to Counseling and Psychological Services (828.227.7469).
  • Recognize that psychotic states can involve extreme emotion or lack of emotion and intense fear to the point of paranoia.
  • Recognize that a student in this state may be dangerous to self or others.


  • Assuming the student will be able to care for him/herself.
  • Agitating the student with questions, pressure, etc.
  • Arguing with unrealistic thoughts.
  • Assuming the student understands you.
  • Allowing friends to care for that student without getting professional advice.
  • Getting locked into one way of dealing with the student.
  • Assuming the family knows about the student’s condition.

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