Psychosis is the term used to describe two major disruptions in mental health \u2014 hallucinations and delusional thinking \u2014 that seriously interfere with the ability to stay grounded in reality. Most people probably associate these disruptions with the mental illness schizophrenia. However, significant numbers of people with bipolar disorder also develop psychosis symptoms. Without knowing what to look for, it\u2019s easy to mistake bipolar psychosis for schizophrenia. However, doctors can use a detailed checklist to tell the difference between the two conditions. Schizophrenia Basics Mental health experts classify hallucinations and delusions as \u201cpositive\u201d schizophrenia symptoms. They use this term to describe symptoms in schizophrenic individuals that don\u2019t typically appear in mentally healthy individuals. Other \u201cpositive\u201d symptoms of schizophrenia include: \tUncontrolled, pointless body movements, and \tNon-delusional but significantly disordered thought patterns Schizophrenia also produces \u201cnegative\u201d symptoms that point to a lack of certain typical behaviors or moods. Examples of these symptoms include: \tA lack of vocal emotion \tA lack of facial emotion \tReduced participation in verbal communication, and \tA declining ability to feel pleasure In addition, the illness can produce changes in the normal capacity for thought, such as: \tShort-term memory disruptions \tA decline in logical thinking, decision-making and other \u201cexecutive\u201d brain functions, and \tA poor ability to focus attention Bipolar Psychosis and Schizophrenia Psychosis is not a typical feature of bipolar illness. However, if you experience severe episodes of mania or bipolar depression, these episodes may be accompanied by hallucinations and\/or delusional thinking. At first glance, the symptoms of bipolar psychosis can look exactly the same as the symptoms of schizophrenia-related psychosis. Unfortunately, even a doctor can potentially mistake a case of bipolar disorder for a case of schizophrenia or a closely related condition called schizophreniform disorder. How to Tell the Difference Fortunately, doctors can distinguish bipolar psychosis from schizophrenia and schizophreniform disorder if they probe their patients\u2019 symptoms more thoroughly and take a detailed personal and medical history. Important steps in this process include: \tLooking for a match between the symptoms of psychosis and a patient\u2019s mood \u2013 In a person with bipolar disorder, the symptoms of psychosis often mirror the presence of a manic episode or a depressed episode. This means that delusions that occur in manic states often have an upbeat or grandiose quality, while delusions that occur in depressed states often have a downcast or negative quality. \tChecking for previously reported mood-related symptoms \u2013 A person with undiagnosed bipolar disorder may have a history of mood-related symptoms, or even an actual diagnosis for another type of mood disorder. \tChecking previous medication usage \u2013 Whether or not a patient reports a history of bipolar disorder, the use of certain medications points to the presence of significant mood-related problems. Examples of these medications include mood stabilizers such as valproic acid (valproate) or lithium. \tChecking for emotional expressiveness \u2013 People with bipolar disorder don\u2019t typically develop the kinds of \u201cnegative\u201d symptoms that appear in people with schizophrenia. This means that a person with psychosis who displays emotional expressiveness may have a bipolar illness instead of a schizophrenic illness. \tAssessing the ability to function socially \u2013 When not experiencing an episode of mania or depression, people affected by bipolar illness often function quite well in social situations. This means that a periodic history of good social function may point toward a bipolar disorder diagnosis, not schizophrenia. The same holds true for people currently in a psychotic state who nevertheless have generally functional relationships with others. A misdiagnosis of bipolar disorder can lead to serious negative consequences. For example, failure to treat a bipolar illness with mood-stabilizing medication can lead to more frequent episodes of mania and depression. It can also lead to worse symptoms during these episodes. In addition, doctors typically use stronger doses of antipsychotic medication for patients with schizophrenia than for patients with bipolar-related psychosis. This means that people who actually have bipolar disorder, but are incorrectly diagnosed with schizophrenia, may receive unnecessarily large amounts of antipsychotic medications.