Anxiety and schizophrenia are two particularly distressing mental health conditions. Though there is some small overlap between them, they are two wildly different conditions, and this article will help explain how.
Anxiety, the phrase usually used to refer to a generalized anxiety disorder, is defined by persistent, excessive, and pervasive dread, worry, and unease. Though everyone feels these emotions from time to time, anxiety disorders occur when the symptoms are so severe that they do not allow the sufferer to live his or her life. Other symptoms include irrational fears, depersonalization (the feeling that you’re looking at yourself from the outside), physical tension, and in the case of social anxiety disorders, excessive self-consciousness.
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that in many ways centers around not recognizing what is part of reality – namely, having psychotic breakdowns. Symptoms of schizophrenia include auditory and visual hallucinations – commonly referred to as “hearing voices” and “seeing things”, delusional beliefs (paranoid/persecutory fantasies), unclear thinking, and a low emotional effect (display of emotion). Contrary to popular belief, schizophrenia is not split-personality or multiple personality disorder.
|Dread, fear, worry||Auditory hallucinations, hearing voices, delusional beliefs|
|Neurotic, but not psychotic||Psychotic|
The primary difference is whether or not the illness is psychotic. Being psychotic means you don’t recognize what’s real and what’s not real, which is where many of the complications from schizophrenia stem from. Schizophrenia, then, is psychotic: severe cases involve a total disconnect with reality. Anxiety disorders are neurotic, meaning that while they are considered a mental illness or instability, they do not involve a disconnect with reality.
There are some overlaps between anxiety and schizophrenia: people with severe anxiety and schizophrenia can both sometimes have persecutory delusions (meaning they believe, in brief, that a group or someone is out to get them or hurt them) and depersonalization, but the difference is that people with anxiety will generally be able to recognize that those thoughts are not 100% reflective of reality, whereas people with untreated schizophrenia will often not be able to comprehend that those thoughts are not reflective of reality.
The video below shows some everyday situations without schizophrenia, and then the video restarts to show the experience of schizophrenia.