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The 5 differences between psychosis and schizophrenia

The 5 differences between psychosis and schizophrenia

October 4, 2022

Symptoms of psychosis, such as those that occur in schizophrenia , they call attention in a particular way to the wide range of mental disorders: hallucinations or delusions fit perfectly with the idea of ​​psychopathology that many people have.

The terms "psychosis" and "schizophrenia" are often used interchangeably. However, there are clear conceptual differences between them ; In this article we will see what they are and we will clarify what their relationship is.

  • Related article: "The 6 types of schizophrenia and associated characteristics"

What is psychosis?

It is known as "psychosis" a a series of symptoms related to the loss of contact with reality . It is frequently associated with disturbances of thought and behavior, including verbal, which cause alterations in many areas of functioning.


The term began to be used in 1841 by the German psychiatrist Karl Friedrich Canstatt. It comes from Latin and can be translated as "alteration of the soul" or "of the mind". Initially included schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and was used in opposition to the concept "neurosis" , which is still common today.

The experiences encompassed in the concept of psychosis are multiple and varied. Hallucinations, delusions and catatonia (a state of psychogenic immobility) are three of the most characteristic psychotic manifestations, but they do not always occur in pathological contexts; for example, hypnagogic hallucinations, which sometimes appear just before we fall asleep, are formally equivalent to psychosis.


Psychotic symptoms can have very different causes . As in schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or dementia, they are usually the result of the combination of psychosocial stress with brain alterations, or the excessive consumption of certain substances and drugs, including alcohol and amphetamines.

On the other hand, psychotic disorders include schizophrenia, schizotypal personality disorder, schizoaffective, delusional, schizophreniform, brief psychotic disorder, catatonia, and psychosis induced by disease and substance use.

Definition of schizophrenia

Schizophrenia it is an alteration that is included in the group of psychotic disorders , being the most representative and known within these. Its cardinal symptoms are of a psychotic type, such as the disorganization of thought or the presence of delusions and hallucinations.


It is a disorder that frequently causes social maladjustment and favors the onset of depression, anxiety and substance abuse . In many cases it occurs chronically and is managed by very powerful antipsychotic drugs, requiring frequent hospitalization.

The symptoms of schizophrenia are divided into positive and negative . The positive symptoms are related to the alteration of mental functions, such as hallucinations, while the negative ones are emotional, motivational or social deficits, among others.

The DSM-IV manual divides schizophrenia into five types: paranoid, disorganized, catatonic, undifferentiated and residual . This classification is made based on the predominant symptoms and the course of the disorder. The DSM-5 eliminated the distinction between subtypes of schizophrenia.

To diagnose schizophrenia it is necessary to have delusions, hallucinations, disorganized language, catatonia or negative symptoms continuously for at least 6 months. Furthermore, these symptoms must cause personal, social or work-related difficulties and can not be directly due to illness or the use of drugs or drugs .

Differences between psychosis and schizophrenia

Summarized we can say that "psychosis" and "schizophrenia" are two closely related concepts, but schizophrenia is a mental disorder with specific diagnostic criteria while psychosis is a group of symptoms that can be caused by schizophrenia or by other motives.

Below you will find 5 keys that will help you differentiate psychosis and schizophrenia .

1. The one includes the other

Schizophrenia is a disorder that causes multiple symptoms, among which the psychotic ones stand out, although they are not the only ones: for example, Anxiety and depression are also very frequent in the context of schizophrenia.

On the other hand, psychosis encompasses schizophrenia if we understand the term "psychosis" as equivalent to "psychotic disorder". This usually happens when we refer to this group of alterations as "psychoses".

two.Psychosis does not always involve schizophrenia

Psychotic experiences are relatively frequent in certain settings, such as the consumption of hallucinogenic substances or brain damage due to dementia. Thus, it is not necessary to meet the criteria of schizophrenia to be able to talk about the existence of a psychosis, especially if it is a short episode.

  • Related article: "Psychotic outbreak: definition, causes, symptoms and treatment"

3. The presence of psychopathology

When they occur as a result of schizophrenia or other more or less similar alterations, such as psychotic depression or schizoaffective disorder, psychotic symptoms are considered a key indicator of psychopathology. In affective disorders or in dementia, the psychotic symptoms are associated with an increase in the severity or with the progress of the alteration.

However, the psychotic symptoms they do not always imply greater severity : people diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, which is characterized by hallucinations and delusions, have a better prognosis than those in which negative symptoms predominate.

4. The duration of symptoms

The duration of psychotic manifestations varies greatly, from episodes of a few seconds or minutes induced by drug use to schizophrenia, which requires that symptoms be maintained for at least 6 months . At an intermediate point is the brief psychotic disorder, which has a maximum duration of one month.

5. Psychosis has multiple causes

Although the cerebral alterations typical of schizophrenia can cause psychotic experiences, they are also may be due to other psychological and biological causes . These include stress and intense fatigue, depression, brain injuries and the consumption of some substances.


Psychosis: Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective Disorder, Delusional Disorder, Hallucinations (October 2022).


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