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 treatments and medications for bipolar disorder and for schizophrenia?

People with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia can expect their mental health professionals to consider several interventions, including medications, psychotherapies, and lifestyle advice. Medication treatment of bipolar disorder tends to address relieving already existing symptoms of the illness and preventing symptoms from returning. For schizophrenia, medications have been found to be effective in treating the positive symptoms (for example, delusions or hallucinations).

Antipsychotic medications that treat the positive symptoms of schizophrenia and the manic and mixed symptoms of bipolar disorder include olanzapine (Zyprexa), risperidone (Risperdal), quetiapine (Seroquel), ziprasidone (Geodon), aripiprazole (Abilify), paliperidone (Invega), asenapine (Saphris), iloperidone (Fanapt), lurasidone (Latuda), and brexpiprazole (Rexulti). Older medications, like haloperidol (Haldol), chlorpromazine (Thorazine), and thioridazine (Mellaril), are more likely to cause muscular side effects, rarely one that can be permanent.

Mood stabilizers like lithium (Lithobid) and antiseizure (anticonvulsant) medications like divalproex (Depakote), carbamazepine (Tegretol, Tegretol XR), and lamotrigine (Lamictal) treat active manic or mixed symptoms and those symptoms from returning. Antidepressants are the primary medical treatment for the depressive symptoms of bipolar disorder. Antidepressants include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medications like fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), vortioxetine (Trintellix), and vilazodone (Viibryd); serotonergic/adrenergic medications (SNRIs) like venlafaxine (Effexor), duloxetine (Cymbalta), desvenlafaxine (Pristiq), and levomilnacipran (Fetzima), as well as bupropion (Wellbutrin), a dopaminergic antidepressant.

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) can treat people whose symptoms of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia are severe and have inadequately responded to psychotherapies and a number of medication trials. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) can treat resistant depression, as well.

Talk therapy (psychotherapy) is an important part of helping individuals living with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia achieve the highest level of functioning possible by improving ways of coping with the illness. Assertive community treatment (ACT) involves members of the treatment team having daily meetings with the schizophrenia sufferer in community settings (for example, at home, work, or otherwise in the community) rather than just in an office or hospital.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/18/2017

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