Jason Russell, the filmmaker of the viral video Kony 2012 and co-founder of Stop Kony, was diagnosed with brief reactive psychosis after his public meltdown last week in San Diego, where Russell allegedly was drunk, walked around naked and vandalized cars.
What is brief reactive psychosis? Did Russell's inability to handle stress play a role in his diagnosis? What is his prognosis?
Brief reactive psychosis is a diagnosis given to someone who has a psychotic episode that lasts up to a month. Symptoms include rapid speech, disorganized behavior and hallucinations.
Russell's wife, Danica Russell, said in a statement that she expects her husband to be in the hospital for weeks and that she believes his condition was brought on from criticism of his charity, Invisible Children. The Kony 2012 video was made on the charity's behalf.
The preliminary diagnosis he received is called brief reactive psychosis, an acute state brought on by extreme exhaustion, stress and dehydration, she said, according to the New York Daily News. Though new to us, the doctors say this is a common experience given the great mental, emotional and physical shock his body has gone through in these last two weeks.
Dr. Charles Schulz, professor and head of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Minnesota, said although brief reactive psychosis may go away in as little as a day, seeking treatment is the best course.
"It's not innocuous," Schulz said. "It's a very good idea to get checked out if you have brief reactive psychosis."
While Russell's behavior qualifies as a psychotic episode, time is the main factor in determining whether brief reactive psychosis is an accurate diagnosis.
Brief reactive psychosis occurs when somebody's in a stressful situation and they have a psychotic break, said Dr. Michael First, professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center. The key thing is the person actually gets better. By definition, a brief reactive psychosis must have gotten better within a month. The diagnosis is made retrospectively.
Russell's episode may have been an indication that he has bipolar disorder or, albeit a less likelier possibility, schizophrenia, said First, who reviewed the TMZ footage of Russell's episode but was not in a position to diagnose the Kony 2012 filmmaker.
Russell was detained March 15 by San Diego Police after he reportedly was walking around drunk, masturbating and damaging cars.
"I immediately thought this was a manic episode," First said. "Certainly, going around naked and walking around crazy like that could happen in a manic episode."
An inability to handle stress during a difficult time could bring about a brief psychotic episode, as can drug use, medical conditions such as tumors or taking steroids.
If Russell does in fact have brief reactive psychosis, it will take him up to a month to get better, First said. If the episode was drug-induced, his condition will improve immediately.
"With psychotic disorders like this, the course is really important," First said.
The Kony 2012 video, about Lord's Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony and his recruiting of child soldiers and forcing girls into prostitution in Uganda, went viral earlier this month and has more than 83 million views on YouTube.
The video was spread on Twitter with the help of Justin Bieber, Oprah Winfrey and other celebrities.