Difference between Psychosis and Schizophrenia

Psychosis and schizophrenia are the two terms that may relate to the same mental condition, yet they differ in their application. In this article, we will see what the differences between the two terms are.


Psychosis vs Schizophrenia
Vincent Van Gogh’s painting The Starry Night, from 1889, shows changes in light and color as they can appear with psychosis.

In psychiatry, psychosis refers to a state in which an individual experiences false sensations. These include hallucinations, both auditory and visual, tactile sensations, feeling that something strange is going on, etc. All of these do not correspond to any real external stimulus, but just happen in the mind of an individual.

Psychosis accompanies many mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, severe disorders like bipolar disorder, and posttraumatic disorders.

However, psychosis itself is not sufficient to diagnose a mental illness; more studies are required to diagnose a patient.

In some cases, psychosis accompanies the use of drugs and alcohol, during and after an individual takes them. Hallucinogens and LSD are synonymous with psychosis symptoms, yet when the effect of the drug passes, the symptoms associated with psychosis go too. Physically addictive drugs, like amphetamine, methamphetamine, cocaine, can cause a psychotic effect even after the overall effects of the drug are long gone.

The other sources of psychosis include intense stress, tiredness, and brain injuries, for example lupus (chronic inflammatory disease that occurs when your body’s immune system attacks your own tissues and organs).

Schizophrenia. A drawing by the artist AnnDeeF

Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder in which a patient experiences a set of visual and/or auditory hallucinations, accompanied by a number of antisocial behavior patterns. The latter include poor grooming, involuntary movements, incomprehensible speech patterns, incapacity to understand speech. In some cases, schizophrenia may result in catatonia, which describes a state in which a patient loses all connection to the outside world and remains in the embryo pose for long periods of time.

The other symptoms of schizophrenia include delusions of persecution (a false belief that someone is after a patient) and delusions of grandeur (a false belief that a patient is a very potent individual, “a King of the world”).

Schizophrenia is one of a few mental illnesses that are organic, that is, the brain is physically damaged, with its ventricles being in an irregular shape, and with a lower neuronal activity in the areas of the brain responsible for cognition and language.

Psychosis vs Schizophrenia

What is the difference between psychosis and schizophrenia?

Psychosis is of an episodic nature. Almost anyone can have psychotic episodes from time to time due, for example, to extreme tiredness or stress. If psychotic episodes are persistent, if they follow one after the other, and are consistent in their content (one hears the same commanding voices inside one’s head), that would most probably constitute schizophrenia, or disorders that are considered a precursor of schizophrenia, such as schizotypal personality disorder.

The other difference of psychosis in relation to schizophrenia is that the former may be a symptom not of the latter, but of some other disorder. Psychiatry is a notoriously imprecise discipline, and a patient may receive totally different diagnoses from different doctors. As psychosis accompanies a lot of other mental disorders, it would not be safe to assume it as a sign of schizophrenic disorder, and would be necessary to research the symptoms carefully, until a clearer picture emerges.

Comparison chart

Psychosis Schizophrenia
Is a symptom Is an illness
Accompanies schizophrenia Is often accompanied by psychosis
Can be treated with medication Is rarely successfully treated with medication (the symptoms can be treated with medication, but the condition cannot be cured)
Cannot be received as a diagnosis, but rather as a symptom Can be received as a diagnosis


In this video you can see an analysis that explains the differences between psychosis and schizophrenia, and also dwells on the nature of both. Several psychotherapists whose work has been focused on families and individuals affected by schizophrenia and other mental disorders discuss the matter: