Schizophrenia is a mental health condition that affects how a person behaves, thinks, and feels. Psychosis refers to a collection of symptoms that affect the mind and cause a loss of grasp on reality.

Psychosis is a common symptom of schizophrenia.

Doctors often diagnose schizophrenia between the ages of 16 and 30 when a person experiences their first psychotic episode.

This article reviews the differences between schizophrenia and psychosis, what each is, how they relate, and the treatment options for each.

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Schizophrenia is a mental health condition that relates to changes in how a person behaves, thinks, and feels. Often a doctor can diagnose the condition following a person’s first episode of psychosis.

Psychosis is often a symptom of an underlying mental health condition, such as schizophrenia, severe depression, or bipolar disorder. The term refers to a collection of symptoms that affect the mind and can make it difficult for a person to determine what is real or not.

While mental health conditions are often the cause of psychosis or psychotic episodes, they can appear on their own. In those cases, a person may experience symptoms due to alcohol or drug misuse, sleep deprivation, or the use of certain prescription medications.

Psychosis is more common than schizophrenia. The exact number of people living with psychosis is unclear, but some estimate that about 15–100 people out of 100,000 develop psychosis each year in the United States. Comparatively, less than 1% of the population of the U.S. has schizophrenia.

Psychosis is a term doctors use to refer to several symptoms that affect the mind. A person with psychosis will often experience disrupted thoughts and perceptions. This can make it difficult for them to determine what is and is not real.

It typically starts in early adulthood, but older people may develop it due to conditions such as Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease. Other common causes are mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia.

Read more about psychosis here.

Schizophrenia is a mental health condition that affects thoughts, behaviors, and feelings. A person with schizophrenia may appear to have lost touch with reality, which can distress family members and friends.

The symptoms of schizophrenia can make it difficult for a person to participate in typical life activities, including school, work, and socializing.

Experts typically break symptoms down into three main categories:

  • Positive or psychotic symptoms: May include hallucinations, such as seeing things that do not exist, paranoia, and exaggerated or distorted perceptions, beliefs, and behaviors.
  • Negative symptoms: Trouble speaking, initiating plans, speaking emotions, or finding pleasure in things.
  • Disorganized symptoms: May include confused and disordered thinking and speech, trouble with thinking logically, and bizarre behavior or abnormal movements.

Several factors may increase a person’s risk of developing schizophrenia, including:

  • genetics
  • environment, such as life experiences and surroundings
  • changes in brain structure

Learn more about schizophrenia here.

Schizophrenia can cause psychosis to occur, but psychosis may happen due to other mental health conditions, medications, diseases such as dementia, or misuse of alcohol or drugs.

Experiencing a psychotic episode does not necessarily mean a person has schizophrenia. A doctor will typically rule out other possible causes before making a diagnosis of schizophrenia or other mental health condition.

In both cases, a person may not know they are experiencing the condition. They may feel overwhelmed or confused.

Psychosis treatment often involves the use of antipsychotic medications and therapies.

Antipsychotic medications can help to reduce the intensity and frequency of psychotic episodes, but they cannot treat the underlying condition. Examples include:

  • chlorpromazine (Thorazine)
  • haloperidol (Haldol)
  • clozapine (Clozaril)

A multidisciplinary team can often help improve a person’s outcome. A coordinated team can help to share treatment decisions and include the person and their family directly in the treatment.

Learn more about medications for psychosis here.

Schizophrenia requires similar treatments to psychosis. A person will often benefit from a multidisciplinary approach that includes supervised use of antipsychotic medications, psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavior therapy, and education for caregivers and family members.

With proper treatment, a person with schizophrenia can live a full life, participating in work, school, and social gatherings.

Learn more about antipsychotic medications for schizophrenia here.

The following are some questions people frequently ask about psychosis and schizophrenia.

What are the three stages of psychosis?

Experts often break down psychosis into three phases: The prodrome phase, the acute phase, and the recovery phase.

The prodrome phase often involves the early signs of psychosis, such as changes in how a person thinks about themselves and changes in feelings and behaviors. It can vary between people and last several months to over a year.

The acute phase happens when a person starts to have psychosis symptoms, such as hallucinations, delusions, and very odd or disorganized speech or behaviors.

The final stage is the recovery stage, where treatment starts to help reduce the severity of symptoms. Many people can successfully reach this stage when they begin treatment.

Does schizophrenia turn into psychosis?

Psychosis is often a symptom of schizophrenia. Psychosis is not a mental health condition, but it is a set of symptoms that relate to several possible underlying causes, including schizophrenia.

What triggers psychosis?

Anyone can develop psychosis at some point in their life. Causes of psychosis include medications, mental health conditions, dementia, and drug or alcohol misuse.

Psychosis is a collection of symptoms that cause a person to lose touch with reality. It is often a symptom of schizophrenia, but other conditions can trigger psychosis to occur as well.

Schizophrenia is a mental health condition that leads to changes in how a person thinks, feels, and behaves.

A person will need similar treatments when either occurs. Treatments are often successful when a person adheres to them and typically involve a multidisciplinary approach.