While bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are two mental health disorders, people may mistake the symptoms of one for the other. Bipolar disorder is characterised by intense highs and lows in a person’s mood, energy and ability to function. Schizophrenia on the other hand is a disorder where people perceive reality abnormally and the symptoms may include hallucinations, delusions, and disordered thinking and behaviour. In case of bipolar disorder, a person alternates between mania and depression, and in between also has normal moods. During mania episodes, a person may have elevated mood, increased energy levels, impulsive and risky behaviour, or difficulty focussing while during depressive phase, a person may be lacking in energy, withdraw socially, become sad and hopeless etc. (Also read: Schizophrenia patients’ symptoms grow by disrupted sleep, wakefulness trends? Here’s what study says)
World Schizophrenia Awareness Day is observed every year on May 24 to raise awareness around the condition and educate people about its symptoms and treatment.
Bipolar disorder vs schizophrenia: What are the symptoms
“Bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are two distinct mental health disorders with differing symptomatology. But there can be some overlap between their symptoms. Bipolar disorder is characterized by recurrent episodes of mood swings, alternating between periods of mania and depression. During manic episodes, individuals experience elevated or irritable moods, increased energy levels, racing thoughts, impulsivity, and a decreased need for sleep. They may engage in risky behaviours and have difficulty focusing or maintaining coherent conversations. Depressive episodes involve persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, low energy levels, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, difficulty concentrating, loss of interest in activities, and thoughts of self-harm or suicide. The key feature of bipolar disorder is the cycling between these manic and depressive states,” says Dr Rituparna Ghosh, Consultant, Psychology, Apollo Hospitals, Navi Mumbai.
“Schizophrenia, on the other hand, is a chronic and severe mental disorder affecting a person’s thinking, perception, emotions, and behaviour. It is characterized by positive symptoms, such as hallucinations (perceiving things that are not there) and delusions (fixed false beliefs), as well as disorganized thinking and speech. Negative symptoms, including reduced emotional expression, social withdrawal, and a lack of motivation, are also present. Unlike bipolar disorder, where mood fluctuations are central, schizophrenia primarily involves disruptions in thought processes and perception, with psychosis being a core feature,” says Dr Ghosh.
Difference between bipolar disorder and schizophrenia
“One important distinction between bipolar disorder and schizophrenia is the presence of mood symptoms. Bipolar disorder is primarily characterized by distinct episodes of manic and depressive states, where the mood fluctuations are central to the disorder. In contrast, schizophrenia is characterized by disruptions in thinking, perception, and behaviour, with psychosis (hallucinations and delusions) being a central feature. Additionally, the age of onset differs between the two disorders. Bipolar disorder often emerges in late adolescence or early adulthood. Schizophrenia is typically more common in males,” adds the expert.
“On World Schizophrenia Day, it is crucial to debunk misconceptions surrounding mental health disorders. Two commonly misunderstood conditions are bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Though they both cause distress, it is essential to recognize their distinct symptoms and characteristics. While both bipolar disorder and schizophrenia can disrupt daily life, distinguishing factors set them apart. A crucial distinction lies in the predominant symptoms. Bipolar disorder focuses on mood swings, while schizophrenia centres around distorted perceptions of reality like hallucinations and delusions. Furthermore, the timing and duration of symptoms differ. Bipolar disorder features distinct mood episodes with stable periods in between. In contrast, schizophrenia is often chronic, with symptoms persisting for a significant portion of a person’s life,” says Dr Pankaj B Borade, Consultant Psychiatrist, Ruby Hall Clinic.
Management of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder
“Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are both chronic and serious psychiatric disorders with familial tendencies. To an untrained eye, a few overlapping symptoms between them may lead to confusion and mismanagement. Bipolar disorder is primarily managed with the help of mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and antipsychotics. Psychotherapies may also be utilized for better outcomes. The primary management of schizophrenia is done with antipsychotics, and somatic treatment methods like MECT (Modified Electroconvulsive Therapy) can also be utilized. With adequate management, patients suffering from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder can lead productive community lives, says Dr. Meenakshi Jain, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Amrita Hospital, Faridabad.