CBSN

Brief reactive psychosis blamed for Kony 2012 director's outburst: What is it?

Jason Russell, a co-founder of Invisible Children, on June 23, 2009 in Washington DC.
Kris Connor/Getty Images
Jason Russell, a co-founder of Invisible Children, on June 23, 2009 in Washington DC.
Kris Connor/Getty Images

(CBS/AP) The family of  Kony 2012 director Jason Russell says  "brief reactive psychosis" caused the 33-year-old's bizarre naked outburst that led to his arrest in San Diego last week. Russell's wife says the director of the viral documentary on Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony got the condition as a result of stress from his sudden rise to fame.

Kony 2012 creator hospitalized after arrest

"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," Danica Russell said in a statement. "Even for us, it's hard to understand the sudden transition from relative anonymity to worldwide attention - both raves and ridicules, in a matter of days."

What exactly is brief reactive psychosis?

Dr. Bryan Bruno, acting chairman of the department of psychiatry at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, tells HealthPop that the disorder is characterized by a period of psychosis that lasts at least one day and up to month that's usually abrupt or sudden.

"By psychosis, we mean impaired reality," Bruno said. "People have some sort of delusion or false thinking, hallucinations, severe disorganized behavior - very bizarre behavior." Bruno is not involved in Russell's care.

According to the National Institutes of Health, other symptoms include strange speech or language, and the symptoms are not caused by alcohol or drug abuse. Russell's family said in the statement that the filmmaker's behavior was not due to drugs or alcohol.

The condition can be triggered by a major trauma like a severe accident or death of a loved one. Bruno says brief reactive psychosis is "very uncommon," usually striking people in their late 20s or early 30s, but it can happen to anyone at any age. Some research suggests people with certain personality disorders, such as paranoid personality disorder or borderline personality disorder are more vulnerable, he said.

The condition may not always manifest itself in a public outburst and could be something more subtle like a person driven by paranoia throwing out everything they own, Bruno said.

How is it treated?

Symptoms may taper off on their own after a short period of time. "In general people have good recoveries," said Dr. Stephen Marder, professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Bruno said antipsychotic medications can be prescribed if symptoms persist for days. If the patient's symptoms don't go away after a month, it could be indicative of a serious condition like schizophrenia or depression with psychotic features, he said.

Russell narrates the 30-minute video "Kony 2012," which has been viewed more than 84 million times on YouTube since it was released this month. His organization, Invisible Children, has been criticized for not spending enough directly on the people it intends to help and for oversimplifying the 26-year-old conflict involving the LRA and its leader, Kony, a bush fighter wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

Russell is expected to remain in the hospital for weeks, his wife said.

"Jason will get better. He has a long way to go, but we are confident that he will make a full recovery," she said.