And now we're going to toss it over to Bipolar Expert Answers, Lisa Sundstedt. Lisa?
Hi! Welcome to Bipolar Expert Answers. Today we're answering questions from WebMD's Bipolar Support Group message board and my name is Lisa Sundstedt.
I'm your host. I'm also bipolar, not bragging, just telling it like it is. And I'm in the studio today with Dr. Marianne Gillow, noted psychiatrist. Thanks for joining us.
Hi Lisa, great to be here.
We have a question here from in us together who says, "My boyfriend is bipolar and also diagnosed with schizophrenia. Is it possible or common to have both diagnoses?"
Bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are thought to be two separate entities in the medical field, the way we define schizophrenia that there's often the presence of psychosis.
And what that means in lay terms is a loss of contact with reality, possibly paranoia, delusions, a real inability to appreciate what's real and what's not.
Bipolar disorder by comparison is very different. It's basically defined as a cycling mood disorder.
Yeah, I remember when my brother was first diagnosed with Bipolar I at a psychotic break. He was put in a hospital and was out of touch with reality and the doctors did not know what is this.
They thought is this schizophrenia or is this is bipolar. And it wasn't until they gave him medication for bipolar disorder that they were able to diagnose him.
Because that, they do look the same when in the psychotic break.
Well actually you bring up a very good point, so here's what I'll tell you. If you look at a person at one point in time, it's possible to see mood swings and psychosis at the same time.
The way I've described it is if you have a cycle and mood disorder, when you're at the top of the peak and the bottom of the trough at both of those places, you may have some psychosis present.
So, if you're diagnosed based on one point in time, you may see what looks bipolar and schizophrenia at the same time.
If however, if you observed somebody over the course of a year or preferably even longer, things will start to sort themselves out
and you'll be able to see whether there's some ongoing presence of psychosis or whether or not there's mood swings and a return to normal functioning
and that's more characteristic of bipolar disorder.
Thanks for writing in and sorry for what you're having to go through, but I wish you the best of luck.