Schizophrenia is a more serious mental illness compared to bipolar disorder, with a worse prognosis. It is characterized by psychotic symptoms, such as delusions and hallucinations, where one is out of touch with reality. Delusions are fixed false beliefs that are not amenable to correction even upon being shown evidence to the contrary. Hallucinations are sensing things that are not actually there. They may also experience disorganized thinking in which they are unable to care for themselves.
Whereas, bipolar disorder is more of a mood disorder, characterized by mood swings where one feels euphoric one moment only to feel at the bottom of the pit soon. That is, they will switch between extreme excitement, or mania, and depression. Delusions and hallucinations occur very rarely.
Schizophrenia vs. Bipolar Disorder Symptoms
Schizophrenia affects about 1.1% of the US population, usually with a typical onset at the age of 25. Schizophrenia isn’t usually seen in children. Bipolar disorder affects nearly 2.5% of the US population, with an onset between the late teen years and early adulthood. Bipolar disorder can affect children.
Symptoms of schizophrenia can be positive and negative. The core symptoms are:
- Disorganized speech
- Disorganized or catatonic behavior: You may move in odd, disturbed ways or hold postures that don’t make sense, and often body kept rigid and immobile.
- Negative symptoms:Diminished emotional expression and lack of motivation.
In addition, they can have cognitive symptoms such as:
- Poor executive functioning: Trouble understanding information and using it to make decisions
- Trouble with focusing or paying attention
- Decline in working memory: Trouble using information immediately after learning it
- Lack of insight or awareness of their disorder(i.e., anosognosia): Trouble recognizing that they have any of these problems. They may argue that there is nothing wrong with them.
Most people with schizophrenia will experience significant depression and anxiety during the course of their illness. Social phobia, panic attacks and panic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder are also common co-morbidities in schizophrenia.
Bipolar Disorder Symptoms
At least one episode of mania or hypomania is necessary for the diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Hypomania is a milder form of mania without psychotic symptoms. A manic episode can lead to people behaving impulsively, making reckless decisions and taking unusual risks, with unawareness of the negative consequences of their actions.
Both a manic and a hypomanic episode include three or more of these symptoms:
- Euphoria – Exaggerated sense of well-being and self-confidence
- Abnormally upbeat, jumpy or wired
- Feel very “up,” “high,” or elated
- Increased activity, energy
- Decreased need for sleep
- Unusual talkativeness about a lot of different things
- Racing thoughts
- Be agitated, irritable, or “touchy”
- Poor decision-making — for example, going on buying sprees, taking sexual risks or making foolish investments
A depressed mood episode includes five or more of these symptoms:
- A depressed mood most of the day, either self-reported or observed by others
- No interest or pleasure in many activities nearly every day
- Decrease or increase in appetite and weight
- Lack of sleep or too much sleep every day
- Restlessness or slowing down, observable by others
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Feelings of worthless or excessive or inappropriate guilt
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness
- Recurrent thoughts about death or plans and attempts to commit suicide
Schizophrenia vs. Bipolar Disorder Causes
What Causes Schizophrenia?
There are probably a number of things behind this illness.
- Brain structure and chemistry. The brain structure and neurotransmitters are different in people with schizophrenia.
- Substance abuse. Taking certain drugs when you’re a teenager or young adult may be a factor.
- Prenatal problems. Improper nutrition or certain viral infections during pregnancy can increase the odds of you getting schizophrenia.
- Overactive immune system. If you have an autoimmune disease, where your immune system becomes hyperactive, your chances of getting schizophrenia may go up.
What Causes Bipolar Disorder?
Some of the factors implicated are:
- Brain structure and function. Subtle differences in the average size or activation of some brain structures can be identified in brain scans of people with bipolar disorder.
- Genetcs. Bipolar disorder tends to run in families. Bipolar disorder is more common in people who have a first-degree relative, such as a sibling or parent, with the condition.
- Stress. A stressful event such as a death in the family, an illness, a difficult relationship, divorce or financial problems can trigger a manic or depressive episode.
Schizophrenia vs. Bipolar Disorder Treatment
Treatment of Schizophrenia
Antipsychotic medications are the mainstay of treatment in schizophrenia. They reduce psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions.
Some may require also antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may be necessary to control psychotic symptoms in those not responding to conventional treatment.
When psychosis is under control, psychological and social interventions are beneficial, such as the following:
- Psychotherapy, both in individual and family settings
- Daily living support, to help people find housing and manage daily responsibilities
- Social skills training, to improve social interactions
- Employment support, to help a person secure or perform a job more easily
Other coping strategies include:
- Staying in close contact with family and friends and seeking their help when necessary
- Joining a support group
- Avoiding alcohol and drug use
- Managing stress through exercise, yoga, and meditation
Treatment of Bipolar Disorder
Medications for Bipolar Disorder
- Mood stabilizers. To control manic or hypomanic episodes. Examples include lithium (Lithobid), valproic acid (Depakene), divalproex sodium (Depakote), carbamazepine (Tegretol, Equetro) and lamotrigine (Lamictal).
- Antipsychotics. Olanzapine (Zyprexa), risperidone (Risperdal), quetiapine (Seroquel), aripiprazole (Abilify), ziprasidone (Geodon), lurasidone (Latuda) or asenapine (Saphris) may help.
- Antidepressants. An antidepressant is needed to control depression symptoms. (In treatment-resistant depression, electroconvulsive therapy or transcranial magnetic stimulation may be tried.)
- Anti-anxiety medications. Benzodiazepines can allay anxiety and improve sleep but are usually used on a short-term basis.
Other Treatments for Bipolar Disorder
- Psychotherapy, such as Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT), Psychoeducation, and Family-focused therapy.
- Hospitalization. Your doctor may recommend hospitalization if you’re behaving dangerously, you feel suicidal or you become detached from reality (psychotic).
- Complementary health approaches, such as aerobic exercise, meditation, can support, but not replace, treatment.