While schizophrenia and bipolar disorder share some things in common, there are two main differences in symptoms between them. Bipolar disorder will cause a person to have substantial shifts in energy, activity levels, and mood. A person with the condition will switch between extreme mania, excitement, and depression. The shifts will affect someone’s ability to perform daily activities. However, a person with bipolar disorder can experience delusions and hallucinations.
Schizophrenia will cause symptoms that are much more severe than bipolar disorder. Those who have schizophrenia experience delusions and hallucinations. The hallucinations involve hearing or seeing things that aren’t there. Delusions are beliefs in things or people that aren’t real. Individuals with schizophrenia will also experience disorganized thoughts where they are unable to care for themselves. The condition is debilitating and requires immediate medical attention.
Bipolar disorder affects 2.2 percent of adults in the United States, and it typically appears in either the late teen years or early adulthood. Unfortunately, children may also show signs of bipolar disorder. Although schizophrenia is not as prevalent in the population as bipolar disorder, the condition still affects 1.1 percent of the adult population in the United States. You are likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia between the ages of 16 and 30, and it is not typically seen in children.
Bipolar Disorder Symptoms
Those diagnosed with bipolar disorder will experience episodes of intense emotion. The three main types of episodes are:
- Depressive episodes: People who have bipolar disorder will exhibit symptoms similar to major depression. Someone having a depressive episode is going to feel severely depressed and lose all interest in activities they once enjoyed.
- Manic episodes: These are times where someone with bipolar disorder will experience increased levels of activity and energy. A manic episode will make someone feel extraordinarily elated or happy.
- Hypomanic episodes: These are similar to manic episodes, but they’re much less intense.
For someone to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder, they have to experience at least one episode of depression that meets the specific criteria for a major depressive episode. The individual must also have one episode that meets the specific criteria for a hypomanic or manic episode.
Other behavioral changes in bipolar disorder include:
- Trouble staying focused
- Extreme impulsivity and self-confidence, in the event of a manic episode
- Suicidal thoughts, which occur during a depressive episode
Those with bipolar disorder may also experience psychotic symptoms during their depressive or manic episodes. These can cause delusions or hallucinations, which is why it can be easy for a physician to mistake bipolar symptoms for those of schizophrenia.
Symptoms Of Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia symptoms are divided into two groups, which are referred to as “positive symptoms” and “negative symptoms.” It is not based on good or bad, but rather symptoms involve what is described as adding or removing a behavior. Positive symptoms include adding behaviors, such as hallucinations or delusions. Negative symptoms involve removing behaviors, which are symptoms of social withdrawal, and removing social interactions.
Some of the earliest warning signs that someone is suffering from schizophrenia include:
- Loss of interest in activities
- Social isolation
- Making irrational statements
- Unusual or surprising behavior
- Altered sleep schedule
- Getting too little or too much sleep
- Inability to express emotions
- Violent outbursts
- Acts of violence toward oneself
- Inappropriate laughter
- Hypersensitivity to touch, smells, sounds, tastes
Risk Factors For Bipolar Disorder & Schizophrenia
Unfortunately, the exact cause of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder has not been determined. While genetics is likely a risk factor, it does not mean you’ll inherit the condition if your parent or sibling has it.
The risk does increase, however, if multiple family members have the disorders. If you know there is a risk, it will increase the chance of early detection and treatment. Environmental factors can also contribute to the risk, but the connection isn’t entirely understood.
Diagnosis Of Bipolar Disorder & Schizophrenia
Blood testing for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder does not exist, but your physician will do a psychological and physical exam. During this exam, you will be asked about any mental disorders that run in your family and what symptoms you’ve been experiencing.
Your physician may want to do a full blood test to help rule out other conditions, and a CT scan or MRI may be requested. They will also ask if you will agree to a drug and alcohol screening.
You may return for several visits before your doctor makes a diagnosis. The visits will help the physician fully understand the symptoms. The physician may also ask you to keep daily records of your sleep patterns and moods. It will help them see if patterns emerge, such as depressive and manic episodes.
If you or a loved one is struggling with symptoms that you feel could be bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, seek help immediately. These conditions are treatable with psychotherapy and medications but can be debilitating if you do not seek help.