In a world where mental illness is still highly stigmatized, it’s easy to confuse one mental disorder from another. A common misnomer is that Bipolar Disorder is a synonym for Schizophrenia. While these two illnesses can have overlapping symptoms, they are two separate disorders that should be diagnosed and treated as such.
Bipolar Disorder is a mood disorder, while Schizophrenia is a mental disorder. The confusion is often a result of Bipolar Disorder Psychosis, which can be present in extreme bouts of mania and/or depression.
Schizophrenia is diagnosed by the presence of delusions (false ideas about what is taking place)and hallucinations (false ideas about what one is seeing or hearing). Bipolar Disorder is diagnosed by the extreme highs and lows of moods, defined as manic and depressive episodes, respectively.
Bipolar Disorder Psychosis is a symptom that may occur during hypomanic episodes or depressive episodes. But the psychosis is induced by mood, not persistently, as in Schizophrenia.
Psychosis can look similar in Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia. It can present as hallucinations, where one’s senses are deceived and the unreal seems real. It can present as delusions – or false beliefs that are firmly held. These delusions have typical subcategories: delusions of grandeur, delusional jealousy (believing a spouse or partner is unfaithful), paranoid delusions (believing one is being spied on or followed), and delusions of reference (believing that random events hold a significance for you alone). Catatonia is a rare symptom of Bipolar Disorder Psychosis, but it can occur.
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, call the Meehl Foundation today to learn more about some of the programs we offer.