• Jul 26, 2021
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Differences between psychosis and schizophrenia

The image that society has of psychosis, in general, and schizophrenia, in particular, as a mental disorder comes from the most visible characteristic of these conditions. This characteristic corresponds to the disconnection with reality that occurs in psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia. In order to understand the differences between psychosis and schizophrenia, we must previously bear in mind the definition, symptoms, causes, origin and course of both. In this Psychology-Online article, we tell you what psychosis is, its causes and symptoms, and also what schizophrenia is, its causes and symptoms. Finally, we explain the main points in which psychosis differs from schizophrenia.

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  1. What is psychosis?
  2. Symptoms of psychosis
  3. What is schizophrenia?
  4. Symptoms of schizophrenia
  5. Differences between psychosis and schizophrenia

What is psychosis?

Psychosis was the disorder that aroused the most interest in the nineteenth century, born as

opposite term of neurosis. The set of symptoms that produce that the person is not able to distinguish reality of fantasy, thus losing contact with reality. The person does not present awareness of the disease, a factor that is a challenge for all health professionals. Mental Health for the treatment of this, since the person must have conscience to be able to work with the disease.

Psychosis involves an altered perception of reality, that is, reality is not perceived and does not live the same as others. The unreality in which the people who suffer from it live generates anguish and nervousness, which causes them to show in a state of vigilance towards their environment, that they have difficulties in the different areas of their life.

Causes of psychosis

The causes of psychotic symptoms can be very different. Psychosis can occur:

  • Due to substance or drug use
  • For previous diseases such as multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, among others
  • As a consequence of psychosocial stress
  • As a symptom of certain disorders such as schizophrenia

Symptoms of psychosis.

To understand the psychotic experience, it is necessary to classify the main symptoms that it produces. Symptoms of psychosis are:

  • Confused thoughts: the most common thoughts become confused or the person stops making logical associations between the different thoughts. There is a difficulty in understanding their dialogue, sometimes being a meaningless dialogue. On the other hand, understanding is not produced only by the people who listen to the dialogue, but also by themselves, finding it difficult at times to follow the thread of the conversations, concentrate or remember the stuff.
  • Delusional ideasUnreal beliefs, although they might sometimes make sense, are not real. They are strongly rooted, because for the patient they are perceived as totally true. Delusions are caused by the inability to separate real experiences from unreal ones.
  • Hallucinations: perceive with the senses something that is not really there. Hallucinations can occur in any sense: it can be seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting or noticing something. Hearing voices is the most common hallucination.
  • Affective and perceptual changes: sometimes, the person undergoes a change in the way they feel. They are also frequent sudden mood swings. Or, it seems that his emotions lose intensity, also showing fewer emotions to those around them.
  • Behavior changes: people who have suffered psychosis present behaviors different from those they were used to having. On many occasions, these behaviors are associated with the delusion that the person is having.

In DSM-V, psychotic disorders are delusional disorder, brief psychotic disorder or psychotic break, schizophreniform disorder, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, catatonia, and substance-, drug-, or disease-induced psychotic disorder.

Here you can find more information about the psychosis.

What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a severe mental illnessfrom the group of psychotic disorders, being the most representative of these. Schizophrenic disorder usually manifests itself in adolescence or early adulthood. Schizophrenia can start suddenly or gradually, and symptoms can improve or be chronic in different degrees, managed with antipsychotics. Many patients experience periods of improvement in which they have only minor symptoms and periods of worsening when symptoms become severe. However, even if there are periods of improvement, for a diagnosis of schizophrenia to be established, the signs Continuous symptoms of the disorder must persist for a minimum of six months and this period must include at least one month of symptom. There are different subtypes of schizophrenia, including paranoid schizophrenia.

Causes of schizophrenia

Finally, it is worth highlighting the triggering cause, which would be genetic predisposition and environmental factors and detail that it cannot be due directly to a disease or to consumption of drugs or drugs.

Symptoms of Schizophrenia.

Here are the symptoms determined for diagnose schizophrenia. In schizophrenia, positive and negative symptoms can be differentiated.

Positive symptoms of schizophrenia

Positive symptoms are the psychotic behavior of the disorder, which include delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech or thinking, and disorganized or catatonic behavior.

  • Delusions: unreal thoughts. For the patient they are perceived as totally true.
  • Hallucinations: perceive with the senses something that is not really there. Hallucinations can occur in any sense: it can be seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting or noticing something. Hearing voices is the most common hallucination.
  • Disorganized thoughts: they consist of making disorganized associations of thoughts due to the affectation of logical reasoning.
  • Disorganized or catatonic behavior: disorganized behavior is associated with high agitation, inability to organize, hindering goal-directed behavior (hindering daily activities). In contrast, catatonic behavior leads to a decrease in psychic and motor activity, which can lead to a total lack of attention and rigidity.

Negative symptoms of schizophrenia

Negative symptoms are related to an emotional, motivational or social deficit. These can be painfully experienced by the environment, since they involve a loss of interest or initiative, emotional sensitivity, social interaction…, Which can cause emotional and social isolation of the person and can cause anxiety and depression. The negative symptoms that occur in schizophrenia are affective flattening, alogy and apathy or apathy and, in some cases, emotional and social isolation can occur.

  • Affective flattening: it is the null reaction to emotional stimuli, resulting in a reduction in the intensity of emotional expression.
  • Praise: poverty of speech, including a decrease in the fluency of speech.
  • Apathy or apathy: unwillingness, inability to persist or to start an activity. Feelings of emptiness can occur.

For more information on this disorder, you can find here what is schizophrenia.

Differences between psychosis and schizophrenia.

Once psychosis and schizophrenia have been understood, we are going to summarize all the differences between psychosis and schizophrenia, even though they are two closely associated concepts.

1. One is inside the other

If we understand psychosis as the set of psychotic disorders that reproduce this set of symptoms of loss of contact with reality, schizophrenia is a disorder that belongs to the group of disorders psychotic. Therefore, the first of the differences between psychosis and schizophrenia is that schizophrenia is within psychosis.

2. Negative symptoms

Although the most representative symptoms of schizophrenia whether the symptoms are positive, this has negative symptoms that do not occur in psychosis. It is true that the psychotic state can produce changes in mood and behavior, but These changes occur when the person is disconnected from reality and connected with delusion and / or hallucination. On the other hand, in schizophrenia the affective and behavioral state is maintained, even in periods of improvement with the absence of symptoms.

3. Duration of episodes

Another difference between psychosis and schizophrenia is the duration of the manifestation of symptoms. On psychosis episodes are short-lived, being able to be of seconds or maximum a few minutes. Against, schizophrenia requires the set of symptoms to be present in periods long lasting, up to a consecutive month.

4. The cause

Another difference between psychosis and schizophrenia is the trigger. Although the manifestation of the symptoms of both may be due to a brain injury, a genetic origin or a social origin, in psychosis the trigger for the symptoms can be due also by substance use, diseases such as dementias, drug use..., while schizophrenic disorder would be ruled out if the symptoms were due to these triggers.

5. Psychopathological disorder

Schizophrenia is itself a psychopathological disorder, which stands out for its psychotic symptoms. However, the appearance of psychotic symptoms is not an indication of mental disorder, since psychotic symptoms can appear, as has been detailed previously, after substance abuse, an illness..., which does not indicate a mental disorder, but rather a symptom caused by these circumstances.

This article is merely informative, in Psychology-Online we do not have the power to make a diagnosis or recommend a treatment. We invite you to go to a psychologist to treat your particular case.

If you want to read more articles similar to Differences between psychosis and schizophrenia, we recommend that you enter our category of Clinical psychology.


  • Alanen, Y. OR. (2003). SCHIZOPHRENIA. Its Origins and its Treatment Adapted to the Needs of the Patient. H. Karnak Ltd: London.
  • National Institute of Mental Health. (2015). SCHIZOPHRENIA.
  • The British Psychological Society. (2015) Understanding psychosis and schizophrenia.
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