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Depression, Bipolar, Schizophrenia Differences

What’s the Difference? Depression, Bipolar Disorder, and Schizophrenia

By , Caring.com author
Last updated: May 22, 2014

For those with little experience with mental disorders, it can be difficult to tell them apart. Sometimes it can even be hard for medical professionals to make a diagnosis. This may not be such a surprise, when you consider that three of the major mental illnesses affecting Americans today -- depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder -- have overlapping symptoms. Research has shown, in fact, that the disorders are linked to genetics, and it may be that these disorders share some genetic risk factors. Science in this area is relatively new, and it may be some time before we completely understand the interactions of genes and how they relate to these mental disorders.

To make things more confusing, psychiatric diagnoses are made based on a list of symptoms that describe a "perfect" type. However, that doesn't mean that each patient will fit perfectly into that type.

That said, there are certain characteristics that tend to define each illness. Here is a list of some of the differences, as well as some tips for caring for someone who has been diagnosed with one of these disorders.