Both Schizophrenia and Bipolar are mental disorders and although there can be similarities between them they are two separate conditions.
It is disturbing that despite awareness campaigns about mental health issues, surveys have shown that many members of the general public are still unaware of the differences between Schizophrenia and Bipolar and often mistakenly believe they are the same thing. They are not.
What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder or manic depression as it is often called is a mental disorder characterised by extreme highs (episodes of mania) and extreme lows (episodes of depression). These mood swings are the defining feature of Bipolar.
When an individual is experiencing a manic episode they usually have bundles of energy, will often need very little sleep, they may speak faster and appear to think faster than other people and they could have unrealistic ideas about what they can achieve.
Once the manic episode is over the person with bipolar will tend to sink into a depressed state where they experience low moods, apathy and disinterest, they may sleep a lot, talk little and withdraw socially.
However, no two individuals will experience Bipolar in the same way and the symptoms and severity of the symptoms will vary significantly from person to person.
Fortunately, most people with Bipolar can function normally with appropriate medication and support.
What is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is characterised by positive symptoms which include hallucinations and delusions as well as negative symptoms such as flattening of the emotions and speech. The type of symptoms and the way they are manifested will be different for each person. Consequently there are 5 sub categories of Schizophrenia.
Paranoid Schizophrenia – feelings of persecution
Disorganised Schizophrenia – disorders of speech and behaviour
Catatonic Schizophrenia – disorders of movement
Undifferentiated Schizophrenia – doesn’t clearly fit with any other sub type
Residual Schizophrenia – no more positive symptoms. This is the long term state of schizophrenia
So what can you expect with regard to symptoms? Hallucinations can be defined as seeing, hearing, tasting, feeling, and smelling something that isn’t really there. As far as Schizophrenia is concerned, the most common type of hallucinations are auditory hallucinations. The individual might hear voices which can take the form of a single voice talking to them, often in a critical manner, or they may hear a running commentary or even conversations between two or more voices.
Delusions can be described as having a belief in something that isn’t real and sticking to that belief despite being shown evidence to the contrary. For example, the individual may have delusions of grandeur such as believing believe they are famous, are a secret spy, that they can fly, that they have special magical powers and so on. Or, they may have delusions of persecution where they think that family members, neighbours, aliens or the government are plotting against them, spying on them or following them.
Treatment for schizophrenia consists of anti-psychotic medication and some form of psychotherapy. Anti-psychotic medication is generally very successful at treating psychosis but treating the so called negative symptoms can prove more challenging.
Fortunately around fifty percent of people diagnosed with schizophrenia will be able to function most of the time and will experience periods of remission. A quarter of people diagnosed will actually go on to make a full recovery; however, the remaining quarter will require long term help and treatment.
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