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What is the difference between bipolar disorder and schizophrenia?

Mark Moronell, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Schizophrenia, literally meaning “split mind,” is a disabling brain disorder that causes severe mental disturbances that are difficult to manage.  Symptoms of schizophrenia  include delusions, hallucinations, hearing voices that are not there, incoherent speech, and disorganized or catatonic behavior with rigidity or extreme flexibility of the limbs. A person with bipolar I may suffer with elated mania with or without delusions and psychosis, alternating with major depressive episodes, and then return to a fully functional mood between these mood states. The bipolar I patient may have periodic hospitalizations, working with a team of mental health specialists who try to find the right combination of medications to stabilize the mood.
Douglas E. Severance, MD
Family Medicine
One of the main differences between bipolar disorder and schizophrenia is that schizophrenia does not include mood symptoms. When people have bipolar disorder, they experience extreme highs and lows in their moods. They may feel extremely energetic and optimistic, and have little need for sleep one day. Days later, they may not be able to get out of bed, and may be so unhappy that they want to hurt themselves. People with bipolar disorder may experience psychotic symptoms at times, but the psychosis is usually short-lived. With schizophrenia, psychotic symptoms can last for six months or more. When a person with schizophrenia does have severe mood symptoms, such as mania or depression, he or she is diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.