Psychosis and schizophrenia are two terms that you may have heard used together. However, while these terms are related, they describe two unique conditions.

Psychosis describes when a person has lost touch with reality. It’s actually one of several symptoms of schizophrenia, a mental health disorder. However, people can also have psychosis without schizophrenia.

Keep reading to learn more about both psychosis and schizophrenia, how they’re connected, and how each condition is treated.

Psychosis describes a collection of symptoms that show a loss of touch with reality. Psychosis may be caused by many things, including:

  • mental health disorders
  • substance use
  • other medical conditions

Schizophrenia is one of several psychotic disorders. These are mental health disorders that include periods of psychosis. In addition to psychosis, schizophrenia may include other symptoms, such as:

  • disorganized thinking
  • difficulties in speech and movement
  • changes in emotional responding, like flat affect

Psychosis is a group of symptoms that indicate a loss of touch with reality. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that there are about 100,000 new cases of psychosis in the United States each year.

There are two main symptoms of psychosis:

  • Hallucinations. Hallucinations are when someone hears, sees, or feels things that aren’t occurring outside of their mind. For example, someone experiencing psychosis may hear voices when no one else is around.
  • Delusions. Delusions are intense, false beliefs that aren’t shared by others. For example, a person experiencing psychosis may believe that others are conspiring to harm them when all available evidence points to the contrary.

When someone experiences psychosis, they’re said to be having a psychotic episode. Several changes in behavior can occur before a psychotic episode happens. Some examples can include:

  • difficulty concentrating or thinking clearly
  • a noticeable drop in performance at a job or in school
  • increased suspiciousness or uneasiness
  • withdrawal from others
  • a decline in personal hygiene
  • trouble distinguishing between reality and fantasy

Several things can cause psychosis to occur. These include:

Schizophrenia is a mental health disorder, one of several psychotic disorders. NIMH estimates that the prevalence of schizophrenia and related disorders in the United States is between 0.25 and 0.64 percent.

The symptoms of schizophrenia can be divided into three categories:

  • Psychotic symptoms. These include symptoms of psychosis, such as hallucinations and delusions. You may also see these symptoms referred to as positive symptoms.
  • Negative symptoms. The negative symptoms of schizophrenia include things like:
    • low motivation to initiate or continue activities or conversations
    • reduced emotions through facial expressions or tone of voice (flat affect)
    • social withdrawal or being uncomfortable around others
    • lack of speech, restricted behaviors, or isolation
  • Cognitive symptoms. Individuals with schizophrenia can also have difficulty with things like concentration, memory, and attention.

Schizophrenia is a complex condition and what exactly causes it is unknown. Experts believe that irregularities with various neurotransmitters, particularly dopamine, are involved. Genetics and various environmental factors also likely play a role.

An individual with schizophrenia can experience periods of psychosis. During this time, they may have hallucinations and delusions. The psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia are also called positive symptoms.

Antipsychotic medications are used to treat acute psychotic episodes in people with schizophrenia. Additionally, these medications can also be used as maintenance medications to help prevent symptoms from coming back.

A diagnosis of schizophrenia can sometimes follow a psychotic episode. However, schizophrenia has some additional symptoms as well as specific diagnostic criteria.

A person can experience psychosis without having schizophrenia or another mental health disorder. Psychosis can occur due to things like substance use, medical conditions, and certain medications.

Treatment is most effective when psychosis is identified and treated early. The treatment of psychosis typically includes a combination of the following:

  • Medications. Antipsychotic medications can help to reduce the symptoms of psychosis. These medications can be given as either a pill or an injection.
  • Therapy. Therapy for psychosis often consists of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) provided by a mental health professional. It may be provided in an individual or group setting. CBT in this case is specifically tailored to symptoms of psychosis or schizophrenia.
  • Family support. Family members are also key in treating psychosis. It’s important for them to learn more about psychosis and how to interact effectively and empathetically with their loved one.
  • Social support. Someone experiencing psychosis may benefit from social skills training or help with returning to work or school.

Additionally, since a variety of other underlying conditions can also cause psychosis, working to manage those conditions can also help to ease symptoms.

Schizophrenia is a chronic condition for which there’s no cure. As such, treatment focuses on managing symptoms and building coping skills for daily life and functioning. It can include a combination of the following treatments:

  • Medications. Antipsychotic medications can help with the psychotic (positive) symptoms of schizophrenia. These include medications to treat acute psychosis, followed by maintenance medications to help prevent symptoms from returning.
  • Therapy. Therapy, which can include CBT, is an important part of treatment. A mental health professional can also help a person with schizophrenia develop coping strategies and teach them how how to recognize signs of a recurrence.
  • Family support. It’s important that family members learn about schizophrenia and how to support their loved one. Making sure the loved one is taking medication and noting signs of recurrence are also vital.
  • Social support. Similar to psychosis, people with schizophrenia can benefit from social support services. These services can help with returning to school or work, improving social skills, and coping with stress and everyday challenges.

Schizophrenia is also associated with several comorbid conditions. These are conditions that can occur along with schizophrenia and can include:

Comorbid conditions can have a significant impact on the overall health and well-being of people with schizophrenia. Because of this, management of these conditions is another important aspect of schizophrenia treatment.

Psychosis is a condition in which someone has lost touch with reality. Its two main symptoms are hallucinations and delusions. Psychosis can have several causes, such as mental health disorders, medical conditions, or substance use.

Schizophrenia is a mental health disorder that includes periods of psychosis. People living with schizophrenia also have additional symptoms, such as negative and cognitive symptoms.

Treatment options for psychosis and schizophrenia are generally similar. Early diagnosis and treatment can greatly improve your outlook, so be sure to seek medical attention if yourself or a loved one has signs of psychosis or schizophrenia.