Psychosis vs. Schizophrenia: What’s the Difference?

Psychosis vs. Schizophrenia: What's the Difference?

When it comes to psychosis vs. schizophrenia, there are many misconceptions. For instance, schizophrenia has been greatly stigmatized by popular images of characters who are out of control or dangerous. However, schizophrenia is a mental health condition like any other, and it does not inherently make a person a danger to those around them. 

Part of the issue with misunderstanding psychosis vs. schizophrenia is that many people treat these as the same issue. In fact, these psychosis and schizophrenia are not the same thing. Below you will learn about the differences between psychosis and schizophrenia, as well as facts about each condition and what treatment options are available for them.

How to Know if It’s Psychosis vs. Schizophrenia

How to Know if It's Psychosis vs. Schizophrenia

Psychosis and schizophrenia may not be the same, but they both have a major impact on your mental health. They cause people to experience and function in the world differently than the average person through mood, thought, behavior, and speech patterns.

The key difference between psychosis vs. schizophrenia is classification. Psychosis is a symptom of schizophrenia and other mental health conditions, whereas schizophrenia is a mental health disorder characterized by additional symptoms.  There are no subtypes of psychosis, but each individual may uniquely experience mental disruptions. However, there are different types of schizophrenia, all of which are associated with psychosis. 

To know why you if you’re experiencing psychosis vs. schizophrenia, you need to seek help from a mental health professional. 

Signs and Symptoms of Psychosis vs. Schizophrenia

The signs and symptoms of psychosis vs. schizophrenia overlap because those with schizophrenia experience psychosis. But not everyone who experiences psychosis has schizophrenia. That’s why it’s important to be familiar with all of the characteristics associated with both. 

To start, psychosis is considered a break from reality. This means that someone experiencing psychosis has disrupted thoughts and perceptions that don’t align with reality. They may hear and see things that aren’t there and exhibit strange and persistent behaviors, thoughts, and emotions. By definition, these are hallucinations and delusions.

These experiences can be unique to each person, but they’re oftentimes confusing and frightening. Individuals experiencing an episode are unable to control their thoughts and behaviors and may struggle to know what’s real.

If this sounds like what you know about schizophrenia, it’s because psychosis is the first symptom required to meet the diagnostic criteria for the disorder. If you don’t experience psychosis, you won’t be diagnosed with schizophrenia. But with that in mind, there are many other symptoms of schizophrenia.

Other symptoms people living with schizophrenia experience are:

  • Disorganized speech
  • Disorganized motor behavior
  • Catatonic behavior
  • Reduced ability to function, such as neglecting personal hygiene
  • Negative symptoms (reduced emotional expression, loss of motivation, withdrawal)
  • Positive symptoms (psychosis, inability to think clearly, hyperactivity)

Causes of Psychosis vs. Schizophrenia

Psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia cause individuals to experience episodes of psychosis. But other mental health conditions cause it as well. These disorders include:

Psychosis can also develop from other health conditions such as:

  • Stroke
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Tumors
  • Sleep disorders
  • Epilepsy
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Substance abuse

On the other hand, schizophrenia can develop from a combination of these factors:

  • Genetics
  • Brain structure
  • Complications during birth
  • Stress
  • Substance abuse

The potential causes of psychosis vs. schizophrenia help determine what type of treatment an individual needs. It’s possible to experience a single episode of psychosis unrelated to schizophrenia as a symptom of another health condition. This can be treated and potentially never return. However, schizophrenia is a life-long condition that requires a combination of treatment modalities.

Getting a Diagnosis

Getting a diagnosis for psychosis vs. schizophrenia is similar, but the criteria differ. Both processes require medical screening and mental health assessments from a mental health professional. These assessments include questions about your personal and family medical history, medication use, substance use, and all of your symptoms.

For psychosis, a medical professional will also screen you for any mental health conditions that may be causing episodes, such as a psychotic or mood disorder. You may also undergo testing to rule out any health conditions such as tumors. Keep in mind that diagnosing early psychosis can be more challenging due to nonspecific symptoms or substance use.

But when it comes to schizophrenia, the diagnostic criteria are more rigid. Individuals must experience at least two out of the five major symptoms. One of these symptoms must be delusions, hallucinations, or disorganized speech, that persists for at least one month with some level of disturbance for six months. This process can be challenging, especially if you’re experiencing symptoms as a result of substance abuse.

Drug-Induced Psychosis vs. Schizophrenia

Substance use, abuse, and the symptoms of withdrawal can cause psychotic symptoms. Psychotic symptoms from drugs and alcohol typically appear during the withdrawal period but they can still be present after that. If someone only experiences psychosis when using or withdrawing from drugs or alcohol, then they most likely don’t have schizophrenia.

However, it’s common for those who have schizophrenia to self-medicate with substance use. This presents unique challenges when it comes to receiving a proper diagnosis. In this case, it can be difficult to differentiate psychosis vs. schizophrenia because the characteristics overlap.

Getting the Right Treatment

Getting the Right Treatment

It’s important to emphasize when it comes to the topic of psychosis vs. schizophrenia that both require professional mental health treatment. While you can receive treatment for both at Springbrook Behavioral Hospital, the treatment type can differ.

Early treatment for psychosis is the most effective. Not only will it help you find the underlying cause sooner, but it will also help you better manage it. There are a variety of methods that include the use of antipsychotic medication or support from loved ones and the community to help you live a more functional life.

Psychosis can be treated with:

  • Medication management
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Family support
  • Group therapy or support groups

As mentioned, schizophrenia is a life-long condition. Therefore your symptoms need to be treated to be manageable. Your treatment plan can include the same options listed above depending on your diagnosis. The medication, therapy, and support that you receive from Springbrook Behavioral Hospital’s adult psychiatric services can help you regain control of your symptoms.

If you’re seeking treatment for substance abuse, our dual diagnosis program can help you. Not only will you receive substance use disorder treatment from addiction specialists, but you can also get the right diagnosis if you’re unsure why you’re experiencing these episodes. Having the right diagnosis is essential for effective long-term mental health and addiction treatment.

Get the Mental Health Services You Need

Knowing the differences between psychosis vs. schizophrenia and the similarities might give you a better idea of what type of help you or a loved one needs. Springbrook Behavioral Hospital provides evidence-based therapeutic methods to help any adult struggling with their mental health.

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