Schizophrenia VS Psychosis: How They are Different

Schizophrenia VS Psychosis: How They are Different

Schizophrenia and psychosis frequently stir up confusion and concern, yet they represent very different realities in mental health. Schizophrenia is a chronic condition marked by profound disruptions in thought and perception, affecting a person’s ability to function daily. Psychosis, on the other hand, is a symptom of losing touch with reality and can occur within various mental disorders, including schizophrenia. 

The critical difference lies not in which is more dangerous but in how each condition’s symptoms are managed. Both can pose significant challenges if untreated, but with proper care, individuals can lead meaningful lives. 

In this blog, we aim to clarify the distinctions between schizophrenia and psychosis, underlining the value of accurate knowledge and empathy in addressing these conditions.

What is Psychosis?

Psychosis is a state of mental disturbance characterized by a significant disconnection from reality. It often involves experiencing hallucinations, delusions, or disorganized thoughts, which can profoundly impact an individual’s perception of the world around them. 

Psychosis can arise as a symptom of various mental health conditions, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or severe depression. It can also be triggered by factors such as substance abuse, extreme stress, or certain medical conditions. 

Recognizing the signs of psychosis is crucial for early intervention and effective management, as it can have a profound impact on an individual’s daily functioning and overall well-being.

Symptoms of Psychosis

Symptoms of Psychosis

Psychosis symptoms encompass a range of experiences, including hallucinations and delusions, commonly referred to as positive symptoms. On the other hand, negative symptoms involve a reduction in typical behaviors, such as low motivation, diminished emotional expression, and social withdrawal. Additionally, cognitive symptoms may manifest as difficulties in concentration, memory, and attention.

  • Hallucinations: Experiencing sensations that aren’t real, such as hearing voices or seeing things that others don’t.
  • Delusions: Holding onto false beliefs despite evidence to the contrary, often leading to irrational ideas or suspicions.
  • Disorganized thinking: Displaying fragmented or illogical speech patterns, makes it challenging for others to follow the individual’s thoughts.
  • Reduced emotional expression (flat affect): Demonstrating limited emotional responses through facial expressions or tone of voice.
  • Social withdrawal: Avoiding social interactions and feeling uncomfortable around others.
  • Cognitive difficulties: Experiencing challenges with concentration, memory, and attention, impacting daily functioning.

Psychosis Causes

The causes of psychosis can be multifaceted and often involve a complex interplay of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. While pinpointing a single cause may be challenging, several key contributors have been identified:

Genetic predisposition: Individuals with a family history of psychotic disorders may have an increased risk of experiencing psychosis themselves, suggesting a genetic component to the condition.

Neurochemical imbalances: Imbalances in neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin, have been implicated in the development of psychosis. Disruptions in these chemical messengers can affect brain function and lead to symptoms of psychosis.

Brain structure and function abnormalities: Structural abnormalities or dysfunctions in certain regions of the brain, including the prefrontal cortex and limbic system, have been linked to psychosis. These abnormalities may disrupt normal cognitive and emotional processing, contributing to the development of psychotic symptoms.

Environmental stressors: Traumatic experiences, chronic stress, substance abuse, and other environmental factors can trigger or exacerbate psychotic symptoms in susceptible individuals. Stressful life events, such as trauma or loss, may overwhelm coping mechanisms and precipitate psychotic episodes.

Substance misuse: The use of certain substances, such as cannabis, hallucinogens, or stimulants, can induce psychotic symptoms or exacerbate existing psychosis. Substance-induced psychosis typically resolves once the substance is discontinued, but prolonged or heavy use may increase the risk of developing a persistent psychotic disorder.

Traumatic brain injury: Head injuries or other forms of brain trauma can disrupt neural circuits and increase the risk of developing psychosis. The severity and location of the injury may influence the likelihood and nature of psychotic symptoms.

Neurodevelopmental factors: Abnormalities in brain development during critical periods of fetal development or early childhood may predispose individuals to psychosis later in life. Factors such as prenatal exposure to toxins, maternal stress, or complications during childbirth may contribute to neurodevelopmental abnormalities associated with psychosis.

How is Psychosis Treated

The most common treatment for psychosis is medication, typically antipsychotic drugs. Antipsychotic drugs work by blocking the effects of dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain that is thought to play a role in psychosis.

In addition to medication, psychotherapy can also be helpful for people with psychosis. Psychotherapy can help people to understand their condition, develop coping mechanisms, and improve their social skills.

In some cases, inpatient hospitalization may be necessary for people with psychosis. This is typically the case if someone is a danger to themselves or others, or if their symptoms are so severe that they cannot care for themselves.

With treatment, many people with psychosis are able to live full and productive lives. Early diagnosis and treatment are important for improving outcomes.

Here are some of the treatments for psychosis:

How is Psychosis Treated

  • This is the most common treatment for psychosis. Antipsychotic drugs work by blocking the effects of dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain that is thought to play a role in psychosis.
  • Psychotherapy can help people with psychosis to understand their condition, develop coping mechanisms, and improve their social skills. There are a number of different types of psychotherapy that can be helpful for psychosis, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and family therapy.
Inpatient hospitalization
  •  In some cases, inpatient hospitalization may be necessary for people with psychosis. This is typically the case if someone is a danger to themselves or others, or if their symptoms are so severe that they cannot care for themselves.
Electroconvulsive therapy
  • ECT is a controversial treatment that is sometimes used for people with psychosis who do not respond to other treatments. ECT involves passing an electric current through the brain. ECT can be effective in reducing symptoms of psychosis, but it can also have side effects, such as memory loss.

What is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a chronic and severe mental disorder that profoundly impacts a person’s thoughts, emotions, and behavior. It is characterized by a combination of psychotic symptoms, including hallucinations, delusions, disorganized thinking, and impaired cognitive function. 

Individuals with schizophrenia often experience disruptions in their perception of reality, making it challenging to distinguish between what is real and what is not. The onset of schizophrenia typically occurs in late adolescence or early adulthood and can have a significant impact on various aspects of daily functioning and interpersonal relationships.

Schizophrenia Symptoms

  • Hallucinations: Experiencing sensory perceptions that are not based in reality, such as hearing voices or seeing things that others do not.
  • Delusions: Holding onto false beliefs despite evidence to the contrary, which may manifest as paranoid, grandiose, or persecutory delusions.
  • Disorganized thinking: Demonstrating fragmented or illogical thought processes, leading to difficulties in coherent communication and goal-directed behavior.
  • Negative symptoms: Experiencing a reduction or absence of normal behaviors and emotions, such as decreased motivation, social withdrawal, flattened affect, and reduced ability to experience pleasure.
  • Cognitive impairments: Experiencing difficulties with memory, attention, and executive functioning, which can impact problem-solving, decision-making, and independent living skills.
  • Motor disturbances: Displaying abnormal movements or behaviors, such as catatonia or repetitive motions, which may interfere with daily activities and communication.

Causes of Schizophrenia

Genetic factors: Schizophrenia has a strong genetic component, with hereditary factors playing a significant role in susceptibility to the disorder. Individuals with a family history of schizophrenia are at an increased risk of developing the condition.

Neurochemical imbalances: Imbalances in neurotransmitters, particularly dopamine and glutamate, have been implicated in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia. Dysregulation of these chemical messengers can disrupt communication between brain regions and contribute to the emergence of psychotic symptoms.

Brain abnormalities: Structural and functional abnormalities in the brain, including enlarged ventricles, reduced gray matter volume, and abnormal neural circuitry, have been observed in individuals with schizophrenia. These abnormalities may affect various cognitive and emotional processes, leading to symptoms of the disorder.

Prenatal and perinatal factors: Adverse prenatal and perinatal experiences, such as maternal stress, infection, malnutrition, or complications during childbirth, may increase the risk of developing schizophrenia later in life. These early environmental exposures can disrupt normal brain development and contribute to the onset of the disorder.

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How Schizophrenia Treated

Schizophrenia is a specific type of psychosis, and treatment typically involves a combination of medication and therapy:


The primary medications used are antipsychotics. These don’t cure schizophrenia but can significantly reduce troubling symptoms like hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized thinking. There are different generations of antipsychotics, and a doctor will find the most suitable one considering factors like side effects and individual response.


Various psychosocial therapies address the behavioral, social, and occupational challenges caused by schizophrenia. Here are some examples:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT helps people with schizophrenia identify and change unhelpful thinking patterns that may worsen symptoms. It also equips them with skills to manage stress and cope with difficult situations.
  • Rehabilitation: This therapy focuses on social skills training and job training to improve a person’s ability to function independently in daily life.

In some cases, other treatments may be considered:

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT): This is a treatment of last resort, typically used when medication and therapy haven’t been effective. It involves controlled electrical stimulation of the brain to induce a brief seizure, which can improve symptoms in some individuals.

Overall, treatment for schizophrenia aims to manage symptoms, improve quality of life, and help individuals achieve independence. It’s important to note that treatment is usually ongoing, and a mental health professional will develop a personalized plan based on the specific needs of each patient.

Treatment for Intrusive Thoughts in Schizophrenia

Intrusive thoughts can significantly impact individuals living with schizophrenia, exacerbating their symptoms and impairing their daily functioning. Fortunately, several treatment approaches can help manage intrusive thoughts and improve overall quality of life for those with schizophrenia.

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • stress management techniques 
  • Medication Management 
  • Antipsychotic medications
  • psychosocial interventions 
  • Lifestyle Modifications
  • Supportive Therapies
  • Family therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Regular exercise 
  • Adequate sleep
  • Balanced diet

Overall, a comprehensive treatment approach that addresses both the symptoms of schizophrenia and intrusive thoughts can help individuals lead fulfilling and productive lives. By combining evidence-based interventions, medication management, supportive therapies, and lifestyle modifications, individuals with schizophrenia can effectively manage intrusive thoughts and achieve greater stability and recovery.

Difference Between Psychosis and Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia and psychosis are often mistakenly used interchangeably, but they represent distinct concepts in the realm of mental health. While psychosis refers to a symptom characterized by a loss of contact with reality, including hallucinations and delusions, schizophrenia is a specific mental disorder encompassing a range of symptoms, including psychosis. 

Schizophrenia VS Psychosis






A chronic and severe mental disorder

A symptom or feature of various mental health disorders


Hallucinations, delusions, disorganized thinking, cognitive impairments

Hallucinations, delusions, disorganized thinking


Typically chronic, with recurrent episodes

Can be acute or chronic, depending on underlying cause


Requires meeting specific criteria outlined in diagnostic manuals

Diagnosis based on presence of psychotic symptoms


Often involves a combination of medication, therapy, and support services

Treatment varies depending on underlying cause and may include medication and therapy


Variable, with some individuals experiencing periods of remission and others requiring long-term management

Depends on underlying cause and individual response to treatment

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A Word From PB Psychiatric Services

At PB Psychiatric Services, we understand the importance of accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment for individuals struggling with schizophrenia and psychosis. Our team of experienced clinicians is dedicated to providing compassionate and comprehensive care tailored to each individual’s unique needs. From thorough assessments to evidence-based interventions, we are committed to supporting our clients on their journey towards improved mental health and well-being. 

Whether it’s medication management, therapy, or support services, we strive to empower individuals to reclaim control over their lives and thrive despite the challenges posed by these complex conditions.

Dr. Lubna Siddiki MD
About Author

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Dr. Lubna Siddiki MD
Dr. Lubna Siddiki is a board-certified Adult Psychiatrist. She specializes in treating adults struggling with various mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and more. Dr. Siddiki believes in a holistic approach to mental health treatment and works closely with her patients to develop personalized treatment plans that focus on their overall well-being. She is dedicated to helping individuals improve their behavioral health and lead fulfilling lives.