How do I know if I have Bipolar or Schizophrenia?

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Some people get a little confused between Bipolar disorder and Schizophrenia and may even mistakenly believe that they are one and the same. They are most definitely not. Bipolar disorder is more common than Schizophrenia. It can start at any time but is usually first diagnosed in young adulthood. Schizophrenia is less common although much more serious but again, it usually first manifests in young adulthood during late teens or early twenties although with both conditions it can happen later.

What is Bipolar?

Bipolar affective disorder also known as manic depression is a mood disorder characterised by episodes of extreme highs (mania) and extreme lows (depression). All of us can go through periods of happiness and sadness but with the bipolar sufferer these are much more extreme and can have a devastating effect on their personal, professional and social life.

Symptoms of Bipolar during a manic episode

•    Racing thoughts and speech
•    Less need for sleep
•    An abundance of energy
•    Spontaneous and often reckless behaviour
•    Extremely optimistic
•    Feelings of euphoria
•    Irritability
•    Aggression
•    Lack of good judgement

Symptoms of Bipolar during a depressed episode

•    Loss of interest in usual activities
•    Sadness
•    Lack of energy and motivation
•    Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
•    Disrupted sleeping patterns (sleeping too much or too little)
•    Changes in appetite
•    Thoughts of death or suicide

This isn’t an exhaustive list of symptoms, just some of the more common ones. Any or all of these symptoms can also occur in other conditions so just because someone experiences these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean they have bipolar so a proper evaluation by a mental health professional is essential.

What is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is characterised by hallucinations and delusions. Hallucinations are seeing or hearing things that are not really there but which are very real to the person with schizophrenia. Indeed, hallucinations can affect any or all of the senses. Delusions can be described as believing things which are not true despite being shown evidence to the contrary.

Symptoms of Schizophrenia can be divided into what are known as positive and negative symptoms.

Positive symptoms

•    Hallucinations
•    Delusions
•    Disorganised and chaotic thoughts
•    Agitation

Negative symptoms

•    Lack of initiative and motivation
•    Withdrawal from social contact
•    Showing no emotion
•    Apathy

There are also different types of schizophrenia. For example, paranoid schizophrenia (where the individual feels persecuted or grandiose), disorganised schizophrenia (incoherent and irrational), Catatonic Schizophrenia (expressionless and withdrawn) and Residual Schizophrenia (no interest in life). Someone can experience any or a combination of these types at the same time.

For an accurate diagnosis it is essential that you have all your symptoms evaluated by a qualified medical professional so that the right treatment can be offered.

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