Can Bipolar Turn To Schizophrenia?  | How To Interpret Overlapping Symptoms

Some mental illnesses share identical symptoms, such as mood swings and depression. Such overlaps occur in bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, sometimes making it difficult to differentiate between the two. However, these conditions are distinct from one another, and they do not always co-occur.

While bipolar disorder cannot develop into schizophrenia, it’s possible to experience symptoms of both. Before you consult a mental health professional, here are a few things you should know about the two conditions.

Differentiating Between Bipolar Disorder & Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are both mental health disorders characterized by manic episodes, depression, psychosis, and hallucinations – it can be challenging to distinguish one from the other. Although both can occur because of a variety of genetic and biological factors, these two disorders are diagnosed and treated very differently.

Differences In Symptoms

Many schizophrenia patients lose touch with reality, experiencing psychotic delusions, auditory hallucinations, and disorganized thinking. Schizophrenia symptoms also include unusual body movements, social withdrawals, and develop poor decision-making skills.

While symptoms of bipolar disorder may appear nearly identical, the condition is more characterized by mood swings and mania. There are two types of bipolar disorder:

  • Bipolar I Disorder: Involves severe mania occurrences, which involve reckless behavior, uncontrollable impulses, and extremely high energy. On the other end of the spectrum, depression spells often come with the inability to function and perform daily tasks.
  • Bipolar II Disorder: Involves “low-grade” mania episodes that don’t interfere with daily living, chores, or work.

Differences In Diagnosis

A psychiatrist will diagnose bipolar disorder and schizophrenia using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

To get diagnosed with schizophrenia, a patient must exhibit at least two of the following symptoms in a significant capacity for at least a month:

  • Hallucinations
  • Agitated movements
  • Disorganized speech and behavior
  • Withdrawals or cognitive impairments

On the other hand, a diagnosis for bipolar disorder requires:

  • Frequent manic and major depressive episodes occurring within a week
  • Daily mood disturbances for at least a week, during which the patient indulges in risky behavior, experiences a lack of sleep, and/or has feelings of confusion

Differences In Treatment

Both illnesses are incurable although they are manageable throughout a patient’s lifetime.

Treatment for bipolar disorder includes:

  • Mood stabilizers, antidepressants, or antipsychotics to manage sudden changes in mood and prevent manic episodes
  • Group, family, or individual psychotherapy, which allows patients to establish healthier routines and thought patterns
  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), which induces controlled seizures and alters the brain chemistry to reduce instances of depression and mania

Treatment for schizophrenia includes:

  • Taking antipsychotics to reduce the occurrence of delusions and hallucinations
  • Social skills training and talk therapy to improve interpersonal relationships and interactions with others
  • Employment and daily life support

Can Bipolar Disorder & Schizophrenia Overlap?

Despite the differences between these two conditions, symptoms can overlap. If you are suffering from either of these mental health disorders, you might experience the following.

  • Psychotic Episodes: Sufferers of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia may experience delusions during an episode. However, someone with a schizophrenic disorder is more likely to experience auditory illusions, whereas people with bipolar disorder tend to hallucinate visually.
  • Depressive Tendencies: Patients lose interest in hobbies, experience difficulty sleeping, or become unable to sustain a job.
  • Irrational & Disorganized Thinking: While schizophrenic people are more likely to experience disorganized thinking, people with a mood disorder may also have difficulty concentrating and making decisions.

Can You Be Diagnosed With Both Disorders At The Same Time?

It’s common for one mood disorder to share overlapping symptoms with another. This is especially true for individuals with substance use disorders. Because of this, it’s also possible to become diagnosed with something rarer, such as schizoaffective disorder.

What Is Schizoaffective Disorder?

People with schizoaffective disorder experience the same symptoms as schizophrenic patients and those with mood-related illnesses such as Bipolar Type I or II. In the United States, only 0.3% of people demonstrate these traits. While schizoaffective occurs equally in men and women, men are more likely to develop the illness in childhood or adolescence.

Some individuals with this disorder are depressive, while some are manic. Symptoms can either be mild or severe, with patients experiencing a mood episode several times a week. A person might also have disorganized speech, behavior, and thoughts.

How Schizoaffective Disorder Is Treated

Despite advanced symptom tracking technologies and data collection, there is no apparent cause of schizoaffective disorder. Despite this, professionals have come up with successful treatment plans that improve patients’ quality of life.

The following methods can help alleviate symptoms:

  • Medication: Currently, the only FDA-approved drug for treating schizoaffective disorder is Invega, which helps subdue episodes and reduce erratic moods that may lead to suicide attempts. If you’re considering a new type of medication, always consult with a doctor first.
  • Psychotherapy: Patients can undergo all forms of talk therapy, whether on their own, with family, or with other people who share similar experiences.
  • Life Skills Training: Through vocational rehabilitation and social skills training, a person improves their ability to participate in all activities, from daily tasks to social settings. Patients can learn how to prevent an episode through lifestyle adjustments and additional tools such as a meditation app or exercise program.

The Bottom Line

Both bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are mental diagnoses that can affect how you think, act, and function. However, overlapping symptoms don’t necessarily mean the two illnesses are co-occurring. Fortunately, there are many online resources, health information, and professionals who can help you distinguish between the two.

If you or a loved one suffer from any of the symptoms listed above, consult a doctor from Transformations Treatment Center. We offer residential and outpatient programs for patients suffering from all types of mood disorders and addictions.