Bipolar Disorder vs. Schizophrenia

  • Medical Author:
    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

What are signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder and of schizophrenia?

To qualify for the diagnosis of bipolar disorder, a person must experience at least one manic episode. Symptoms of mania include

  • elevated, expansive, or irritable mood;
  • racing thoughts;
  • pressured speech (rapid, excessive, and frenzied speaking);
  • decreased need for sleep;
  • grandiose ideas (for example, false beliefs of superiority or failures);
  • tangential speech (repeatedly changing topics to topics that are hardly related);
  • restlessness/increased goal-directed activity; and
  • impulsivity, poor judgment, or engaging in risky activity (like spending sprees, promiscuity, or excess desire for sex).

While a major depressive episode is not required for the diagnosis of bipolar disorder, depression often alternates with manic episodes and tends to occur more often than mania in many people.

Symptoms of schizophrenia may include

  • delusions (beliefs not at all based in reality),
  • hallucinations (seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, or tasting something that is not really there),
  • catatonia,
  • negative symptoms, like not talking (mutism, low motivation, and movement), and
  • disorganized speech or behavior.

What tests do health care professionals use to diagnose bipolar disorder and schizophrenia?

Since there is no one test that determines that someone has bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, health care professionals diagnose these conditions by gathering medical, family, and mental health information. The mental health professional will also either perform a physical examination or request that the individual's primary care doctor do so, including lab tests to assess the person's general health and whether he or she has mental health symptoms that are due to a physical condition.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/18/2017

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