Can You Be Schizophrenic and Bipolar?

  • Medical Reviewer: Dany Paul Baby, MD
Medically Reviewed on 5/25/2022
Doctors have a hard time diagnosing bipolar disorder or schizophrenia because some of their symptoms may be similar. Some people can have symptoms of both disorders. They have a condition called schizoaffective disorder.
Doctors have a hard time diagnosing bipolar disorder or schizophrenia because some of their symptoms may be similar. Some people can have symptoms of both disorders. They have a condition called schizoaffective disorder.

Bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are mental health illnesses. Bipolar disorder is a mood or affective disorder. It’s when you have extreme mood swings that affect your daily activities. Schizophrenia is a type of psychotic disorder where you can’t tell what’s real and what’s imagined. These two disorders affect how you think and behave.

Doctors have a hard time diagnosing bipolar disorder or schizophrenia because some of their symptoms may be similar. Some people can have symptoms of both disorders. They have a condition called schizoaffective disorder.

What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder, also called manic-depressive disorder or manic depression, is a mood or affective disorder. It causes unusual, extreme mood swings and shifts in your energy, activity, concentration, and ability to do daily tasks. You feel extremely happy for some time and then extremely depressed for some time.

What are the causes of bipolar disorder?

The exact cause of bipolar disorder is unclear. But the following risk factors contribute to it:

  • Chemical or neurotransmitter imbalance in the brain
  • Changes in the brain’s structure or function
  • Genetics (you can inherit bipolar disorder from your parents)
  • Stress
  • Emotional triggers like relationship problems, abuse, or the death of a loved one
  • Physical illness
  • Sleep disturbances

Bipolar disorder can be seen as young as in teenagers and younger adults. It can appear in women during pregnancy or after childbirth. Symptoms can vary over time, and managing them requires taking medicine long-term.

What are bipolar disorder symptoms?

The main symptom of bipolar disorder is extreme mood swings, ranging from extreme highs, or mania, to extreme lows, or depression. The highs and lows can last for weeks or months. Bipolar disorder symptoms are divided into depressive and manic symptoms.

Depressive symptoms

Depressive symptoms include feeling sad, empty, hopeless, or worthless most of the time. You may lack energy and have poor concentration and memory. You lose interest in daily activities and feel negative about most things. Self-doubt, guilt, or despair may kick in.

You may lose your appetite and have difficulty sleeping. You may also have suicidal thoughts. Some people with depressive symptoms become delusional. Others may have hallucinations and disturbed thinking. These symptoms can make it difficult to manage work and maintain interpersonal relationships.

Manic symptoms

Manic symptoms include feeling very happy and full of energy. You’ll find yourself talking fast. You’ll feel self-important. You’ll feel like you have great ideas and important plans. You may get easily distracted or irritated.

You may not feel like eating or sleeping. You may have delusions and hallucinations. You may also become impulsive and make risky or harmful decisions.


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What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder. It affects how you think, feel, and act. Schizophrenia makes you lose touch with reality. You may not be able to tell the real from the imaginary. If you have schizophrenia, it can affect your daily activities. But treatment can help you manage the symptoms.

What are the causes of schizophrenia?

The exact cause of schizophrenia is unknown. It may occur with a combination of the following risk factors:

  • Genetics
  • Brain development issues
  • Chemical imbalance in the brain
  • Complications during birth
  • Stress
  • Drug abuse
  • Emotional trauma

What are symptoms of schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia symptoms vary among people. They include:

Psychotic symptoms

If you have psychotic symptoms, you may lose your sense of reality and view the world differently. Psychotic symptoms include hallucinations, where you see things or hear voices that aren’t there. You may also have delusions, strong beliefs that aren’t true and seem irrational to others.

You may also have unusual or illogical thoughts and have trouble organizing your thoughts or speech. You may also have abnormal or repetitive body movements.

Negative symptoms

These include a lack of motivation, interest, or ability to do daily activities. You may avoid being social and showing emotions. You’ll have low energy and difficulty functioning. These symptoms are similar to those of depression or the depressive phase of bipolar disorder.

Cognitive symptoms

These include problems with attention, concentration, and memory. You may find it difficult to process information and make decisions. You may also have trouble holding a conversation, learning new things, or remembering things you just learned.

Can you be bipolar and schizophrenic?

You can have both bipolar disorder and schizophrenia symptoms. This condition is called bipolar disorder type schizoaffective disorder. It has mood-related or affective symptoms of bipolar disorder and psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia.

What is schizoaffective disorder?

Schizoaffective disorder is a rare but serious mental disorder. It has features of schizophrenia and affective disorders like bipolar disorder. It is often misdiagnosed as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder because of overlapping symptoms.

It is usually seen between 16 and 30 years of age and is rare in children. Similar to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, the exact cause of schizoaffective disorder is unknown. Its risk factors include genetics, changes in brain structure and function, and chemical imbalance in the brain. It can also develop if you use mind-altering, psychotropic drugs. Stress, emotional trauma, or viral infections can also trigger the condition.

Doctors diagnose schizoaffective disorder if you have psychotic symptoms for two weeks without any mood symptoms. This is different from schizophrenia. In schizophrenia, psychotic symptoms remain throughout the condition.

How is schizoaffective disorder treated?

Doctors can't completely cure schizoaffective disorder. They prescribe medicines to help control the symptoms. Antidepressants and mood stabilizers address bipolar disorder symptoms, and antipsychotics treat schizophrenia symptoms.

Treatment can also involve psychotherapy and self-management training. These types of counseling help you manage your mental health and become functional. For schizoaffective disorder caused by drug use, you’ll be given treatment and rehabilitation.

If you have severe symptoms, psychotic episodes, or suicidal tendencies, you may need hospitalization.

In rare cases, doctors may use electroconvulsive therapy, which is electrical stimulation of the brain. This is used to treat bipolar disorder symptoms.

How can you prevent schizoaffective disorder?

You can’t prevent schizoaffective disorder. If you notice symptoms, visit your doctor for a diagnosis. Early diagnosis and treatment can help you manage the symptoms better.

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Medically Reviewed on 5/25/2022
NAMI: “Schizoaffective Disorder.”

National Institute of Mental Health: “Bipolar Disorder,” “Schizophrenia.”

NHS: “Causes - Bipolar disorder,” “Causes – Schizophrenia,” “Symptoms - Bipolar disorder.”

Royal College of Psychiatrists: “Schizoaffective Disorder.”

Wy, T.J.P., Saadabadi, A. StatPearls, “Schizoaffective Disorder.” StatPearls Publishing, 2021.