(800) 973-1540

What's the difference between schizophrenia and Alzheimer's?

16 answers | Last updated: Aug 26, 2014
Q
Chad asked...
What's the difference between schizophrenia and Alzheimer's? I'm seeing some of the same symptoms, and am getting very scared.
 

Answers
Caring.com User - Ken Robbins, M.D.
Caring.com Expert
Send a Hug or Prayer
Send a Hug or Prayer
A
Kenneth Robbins, M.D., is a senior medical editor of Caring.com. He is board certified in psychiatry and internal medicine, has a master's in public...
79% helpful
answered...

Schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s Disease are both diseases of the brain that can cause dramatic symptoms. They are different in many ways, but there are some similarities. Both can be associated See also:
Could my mother have Alzheimer's, rather than dementia?

See all 928 questions about Alzheimer's and Other Dementias
with psychotic symptoms. That is, they can include hallucinations or delusions. Hallucinations are false sensory perceptions, which can involve someone believing they are seeing things, hearing things, touching things, or smelling things, but these perceptions are not real. Delusions are fixed false beliefs, such as someone believing they are being followed, believing they are not human or believing they have a terminal illness, though there is nothing to support the accuracy of the beliefs. Furthermore, both diseases can interfere with thinking, as will be discussed below. Their differences, however, are far greater than their shared features.

Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common cause of dementia. It is the cause of about two thirds of dementia in this country. This is a disease that only rarely manifest itself before age 65. By the time people reach age 85, about 40% of people in this country can be diagnosed with this disease. Alzheimer’s Disease destroys brain cells and as a result, it causes progressive problems with memory and other cognitive functions. For example, it can cause problems with spatial orientation, reasoning, abstract thinking, language and planning. As it gets worse, it causes problems with social functioning, hobbies, work and even with performing activities of daily living. There are many psychological difficulties that are experienced by people with this disease. Depression is very common, especially early in the course of Alzheimer’s Disease. People can also become anxious, agitated, aggressive and psychotic as the illness progresses. These associated psychiatric difficulties can be treated, but unfortunately we do not know how the treat the pathologic process that causes this disease. There is a class of medications called cognitive enhancers that can slow the disease process, but only by months rather than years.

Schizophrenia is a psychotic illness that generally becomes manifest between the late teens and the early 30’s. The symptoms of schizophrenia include hallucinations and delusions, as well as difficulty organizing thoughts. Symptoms can also include a decrease in the ability to show or express emotion and problems with particular cognitive functions. These functions can include problems with attention, planning and organizing thoughts, and can include problems being able to use recently learned information. This loss of accessing recent memories is a relatively small part of the illness, whereas with Alzheimer's Disease, memory problems are fundamental to the illness. Fortunately, with schizophrenia we have medications that can treat the illness and markedly reduce the symptoms.

 

More Answers
64px-hh6b80fd52d1
100% helpful
An anonymous caregiver answered...

The answer given by the physician was not good enough.

Differences

All I can see so far is the short term memory is different is better for the Alzheimer patient. Short term memory is a problem with schizophrenia. What else is different?

 

100% helpful
Rhondabonda answered...

My mother has Alzheimer's and lives with us (we're on year seven). I am responsible for her care. Our son was just hospitalized with what they think is Schizophrenia. My husband and I see some similarities in the way both my mother and son reason. There seems to be some similarity in the fact that they both have difficulty not only with reasoning, but everyday tasks. I know that in Alzheimer's the brain has plaque growth, but does this occur with Schizophrenia? My son is not the same as he was several years ago. He began having difficulty with normal adult life (jobs, taking care of his room, self, etc.) right after he graduated from college. He has been seeing an orthomolecular physician who has prescribed mega doses of vitamins and he also is supposed to use a CPAP machine for breathing at night. If he misses his medication or vitamins or the breathing machine, there is a noticable difference in his capabilities. He is employed and supports himself, which is a huge step in the right direction as he stumbled through life for five years before we realized exactly what was wrong. If anyone else has any insight as to how to help him (or my mother), I'd love to hear it. Thanks! Rhondabonda

 

100% helpful
Emily M. answered...

Hi Rhondabonda,

Thanks for your question. Sorry to hear about your son's and mother's diagnosis. That's a tough situation! To answer your first question, there are no plaque growths in schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is thought to be caused primarily by a dopamin imbalance in the brain.

We have a few articles about schizophrenia that you may find helpful here: http://www.caring.com/schizophrenia

I hope that helps!

-Emily

 

64px-hh6b80fd52d1
100% helpful
An anonymous caregiver answered...

mY HUSBAND HAS BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH MODERATE TO SEVER DEMETIA...hE IS N AN INSISTED LIVING HOME NOT FAR FROM ME. hOW DO i KEEP HIM FROM ALWAYS WANTIN TO COME HOME WHERE THE DOCTORS SAY HE IS NOT SAFE

 

100% helpful
Emily M. answered...

Hi anonymous, thank you for your question. If you'd like, you can post new a question in our Ask & Answer section, here ( http://www.caring.com/ask ). I hope that helps! Take care, Emily | Community Manager

 

100% helpful
Illawarrian answered...

Dealing with my mother who has Alzheimers seems no different from dealing with acquaintances I've known over the years with schizophrenia. I read all these innocuous descriptions of Alzheimers - memory loss, confusion, inability to complete tasks, trouble dressing self - and I think, this is nowhere near the true picture. I'd call it a dishonest description of the disease, designed not to alarm potential caregivers with the terrible truth. I am having to put up with my mother's hallucinations, false beliefs, extreme paranoia, imaginary stalkers, anger and threatened violence. She tried to break a window tonight because I wouldn't unlock the door and let her out to rescue a cat she imagined was screaming. Then she started accusing me of throwing the cat out onto the road to be killed. She is quite mad and a danger to herself and everyone else. I'm not mincing words here, my mother is insane. Dehumanising terminology maybe, but the simple truth. For months I have tried all manner of natural therapies and exercise while things continue to deteriorate and I am nearly out of my mind. And by the way, her memory isn't bad at all, she can dress herself, make breakfast, remembers all friends and relatives and goes walking without getting lost. Don't you try and tell me Alzheimers is about memory loss. Time for the heavy-duty drugs.

 

64px-hh6b80fd52d1
100% helpful
An anonymous caregiver answered...

Your experience with Alzheimers &your mom is exactly what I am going through with my mom now. We as a country better deal with this disease and soon....I am a baby boomer & worry about the immense cost to our economy, our health care system, and our family structure as millions of us develop dementia & Alzheimers in the near future!

 

64px-hh6b80fd52d1
100% helpful
An anonymous caregiver answered...

illawarrian it sounds very much like you mom has schizophrenia. please get this checked out soon. there are a lot of drugs that can help her and she can lead a fairly normal life, like my mom.

 

100% helpful
Linked answered...

My mother has Alzheimer's (onset age 55) and my son has schizophrenia (onset age 21). I understand that Alzheimer's has a link with plaque and schizophrenia appears to be dopamine related. Both diseases appear to affect the exact same part of the brain, no matter the cause. If I were a research scientist, I would explore the connection. There is no history of mental illness on either side of the family. There is a definite history of Alzheimer's. I truly believe there is a connection but of course I keep reading that there isn't. We are struggling, but it is what it is. We must move forward trying to help my mom live a 'comfortable' rest of her life and trying to help my son live a 'stable' life. And hopefully science will help the next generation.

 

100% helpful
Illawarrian answered...

Linked I believe you are spot on. Alzheimers causes schizophrenia. There is no schizophrenia in my family and my mother never had it before the age of 85 but she has schizophrenia now and is on antipsychotic medication, which is working well. I definitely believe these two diseases are somehow linked. Since people can have plaque and no Alzheimers I believe they are barking up the wrong tree with the plaque theory.

 

100% helpful
DanaJoyce answered...

I agree that there is a "link" between the Schizophrenia and Alzheimers! My Mother (87) has suffered from schizophrenia for years... though never would go to a Doctor to get and "official" diagnoses. I am now her legal Guardian and have her in a skilled nursing home and the staff calls her mental problem Alzheimers .... Maybe the symptoms appear to overlap but we who lived with her know she was delusional and paranoid for years. She also had a Sister who was diagnosed as well. She is on an antipsychotic now. I wish it were easier to distinguish the difference .... the present medical community is very lacking in targeting and treating both.

 

100% helpful
Illawarrian answered...

We've finally found an antipsychotic that works for Mum. She's in a nursing home, now 88 years old. She's a lot calmer. She never had psychotic episodes until the Alzheimers took hold. Maybe some people get schizophrenia with the Alzheimers for some reason. Researchers should be looking at the link.

 

100% helpful
Bethfa answered...

Anyone caring for a loved one with dementia or alzheimers and who is also showing signs of schizophrenia may want to look into the possibility that it is actually a form of dementia called Lewy Body Dementia and not alzheimers. Another symptom of this form of dementia is parkinson.

 

 
Ask a question Ask a question | Add an answer Add an answer