Psychosis vs. Schizophrenia

psychosis and schizophrenia

Psychosis and schizophrenia are terms that frequently arise in discussions about mental health, and while these two complex conditions are similar, they are not interchangeable. Still, you should understand the relationship between them, their primary symptoms, and strategies for managing them.

What Is Psychosis?

Psychosis is not a disease; it is a set of symptoms that indicate a person has lost touch with reality. It involves a disruption in the way someone perceives and processes information, which can affect their thoughts, perceptions, and understanding of the world around them.

Psychosis has four defining characteristics.

  • Hallucinations: Seeing, feeling, or hearing things that are not there.
  • Delusions: Holding firm beliefs that are not based in reality, such as thinking you have superpowers or are under surveillance by hidden forces.
  • Disordered thinking: Having fragmented or disconnected ideas, making coherent communication difficult.
  • Behavioral changes: Sudden, sharp changes in mood or behavior can indicate psychosis.

Psychosis can be a feature of several mental health conditions, and it can also occur due to physical illness, substance abuse, or extreme stress.

What Is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a chronic and severe mental health disorder that affects thoughts, feelings, and behavior. It can dramatically change someone’s personality, which can be distressing for them and their loved ones.

  • Withdrawal from social life: People with schizophrenia may become isolated and lose interest in engaging with other people.
  • Decreased drive: Those with schizophrenia often show a marked decline in motivation, known as avolition. You might lose the ability to plan, organize, or set goals, even if ambition was a prominent part of your personality before the illness onset.
  • Erratic emotions: Fluctuations in mood and emotional responsiveness can be alarming. A person with schizophrenia might appear emotionally flat and disinterested one moment and overly reactive the next. This unpredictability can make relationships challenging.
  • Altered perception of self and others: Delusions can distort your perceptions of the world. You may believe you have a grandiose role to play or fear you are under constant threat from others. These changes can profoundly affect your identity and sense of self.

A medical professional like a psychiatrist can diagnose you with schizophrenia by asking you questions about your symptoms and observing your behavior. Treatment typically involves a combination of medication and psychotherapy to manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life.

Distinguishing Between Psychosis and Schizophrenia

While psychosis is a symptom of various mental health challenges, including schizophrenia, it is not exclusive to any single condition. Some recreational and prescription drugs can induce psychotic symptoms as side effects. Conditions such as brain tumors, neurological diseases, and hormonal fluctuations (for example, those associated with post-pregnancy) can also lead to psychotic episodes.

In contrast, schizophrenia is a specific psychiatric diagnosis that encompasses a broader range of symptoms, typically including psychosis. The condition requires a comprehensive treatment approach that often includes antipsychotic medications, psychotherapy, and supportive services.

Speak to an Admissions Counselor Today

Understanding the difference between psychosis and schizophrenia is crucial for effective diagnosis and treatment. At Palm Springs Behavioral Health, we provide informed care and support to people experiencing mental health crises.

Reaching out for professional help is critical if you have experienced a break with reality or may be suffering from schizophrenia. Our clinicians can equip you with tools to manage your symptoms and regain control of your life.