August 23rd, 2011
01:29 PM ET

Could my bipolar brother develop schizophrenia?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Tuesdays, it's Dr. Charles Raison, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University, and an expert in the mind-body connection for health.

Question asked by Benjamin from St. Catharines, Ontario

I was wondering if my brother, who we have been told is bipolar, could develop schizophrenia? My uncle, my mom's brother, was schizophrenic and unfortunately fell victim to the mental illness. We are aware that there have been some mental health issues with males on my mother's side of the family, so could it be possible that he could be schizophrenic as well as bipolar?

Expert answer

Dear Benjamin,

Your question points to a major problem confronting the field of psychiatry, which is the imprecision of our diagnostic categories. The problem has a simple cause but no simple answer.

The cause comes from the fact that all our disease states are based on symptoms and how they are clustered together, rather than on any real biological mechanism.

In this way, our diagnoses are similar to the way most medical illnesses were defined before the 20th century. For example, in the old days people with fluid in the lungs and chest pain were said to have pleurisy - it was defined by its symptoms.

Ask our doctors a question

Nowadays we recognize literally hundreds of different reasons for pleurisy symptoms, many of them with specific treatments that have no effect on other causes for pleurisy.

Diseases such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are like pleurisy and not like adenocarcinoma of the lung or pneumococcal pneumonia or an aortic dissection, all of which cause pleurisy, but all of which are disease conditions based on an understanding of physical mechanisms rather than symptoms.

Both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are better thought of as syndromes rather than specific diseases. As such, someone has schizophrenia if he or she meets symptom criteria for schizophrenia spelled out in the diagnostic manual. The same thing holds for bipolar disorder.

It sounds simple enough, but things immediately get complicated. First, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder share important symptoms; for example, psychotic thought and behavior can be present in both conditions, making the syndromes hard to differentiate.

If a person is heavy on psychosis and relatively light on either depression or mania, he or she looks schizophrenic and is called such. If a person is heavier on depressions and manias and only has psychotic episodes when in a mood state, he or she looks more like someone with bipolar disorder and is called such.

To add to our diagnostic troubles, over time many people's symptom patterns swing from mostly psychotic to mostly mood-related and back again, making them sometimes seem schizophrenic and sometimes bipolar. And other people spend most of their lives in an intermediate state, with lots of psychosis and lots of depression or mania, but not enough to be fully bipolar. These people are called schizoaffective.

By definition, a person can't have bipolar disorder and schizophrenia at the same time. But a person can sure struggle for years with psychosis, odd behavior and mood swings and be hard to classify clearly into one diagnosis or the other, which sounds to be the case with your brother.

In the midst of these complications, there is some good news. More important than his exact diagnosis (which is after all only a description of his symptoms and how they cluster over time) is the fact that both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder respond to similar medications.

The important thing is not his diagnosis, but his need to get into - or remain in - consistent treatment, which offers the best hope of providing a hopeful long-term outcome.

Follow @CNNHealth on Twitter.

soundoff (1,758 Responses)
  1. RV Repair Services Near Me


    June 25, 2021 at 18:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. thvl1 truc tuyen

    Liên Kết Coi Thẳng Soccer Futsal Việt Nam Vs Lebanon Vòng Loại World Cuptruyen hinh truc tuyen qpvnNếu cứ đùa như cách vừa tiêu diệt Everton tới 3-1 bên trên Sảnh quý khách hàng


    June 25, 2021 at 18:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. tcvn 104-07

    Kết Quả Futsal Việt Nam Vs Lebanonkq c2 châu âuTheo thể thức thi đấu, đội thắng ở cặp đấu này sẽ giành tấm vé đến Lithuania trong ngày hội bóng đá lớn nhất thế giới mang đến futsal. Tuyển futsal Việt Nam bước vào trận play-off lượt đi tranh vé dự play-off World Cup 2021 với sự tự tin. Tuy vậy, HLV Phạm Minh Giang bày tỏ, toàn đội không ngán Lebanon tuy vậy sẽ tìm cách để khắc chế sức mạnh của đối thủ bởi trên băng ghế huấn luyện là nhà cầm quân Ramiro Lopez, người từng dẫn dắt futsal Tây Ban Nha.|Dựa vào lịch thi đấu, quý khách hoàn toàn có thể sắp xếp công việc


    June 25, 2021 at 20:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. RV Repair California

    You are so cool! I do not believe I have read through anything like this before. So great to find somebody with genuine thoughts on this subject matter. Really.. many thanks for starting this up. This website is something that is required on the internet, someone with a little originality!


    June 25, 2021 at 20:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. RV Repair Shops Near Me


    June 25, 2021 at 21:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. RV Air Conditioner Repair Near Me


    June 25, 2021 at 21:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. RV Trailer Repair Near Me

    Oh my goodness! Impressive article dude! Thank you so much, However I am having issues with your RSS. I donít know why I am unable to join it. Is there anyone else getting the same RSS problems? Anyone who knows the solution will you kindly respond? Thanx!!


    June 25, 2021 at 22:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. kenh truc tiep chung ket c1

    Coi Trực Tiếp Viettel Vs Bình Dương Tại V League 2021 Ở Kênh Nào? hồng nhungĐội tuyển chọn Việt Nam chỉ cần một kết trái hòa có bàn thắng nhằm lần thứ hai góp mặt trên World Cup futsal. Nhưng, nhằm làm được như vậy


    June 25, 2021 at 22:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. casino online

    Tin Tức, Sự Kiện Liên Quan Đến Trực Tiếp Bóng Đá Phái Nữ zingplayĐội tuyển chọn nước ta chỉ muốn một kết trái hòa có bàn thắng nhằm lần thứ hai góp mặt trên World Cup futsal. Nhưng, nhằm thực hiện được điều đó


    June 25, 2021 at 22:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. RV Repairs Nearby


    June 25, 2021 at 23:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. RV Repair


    June 26, 2021 at 01:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. RV Repair Shops Near Me Now

    I'm more than happy to find this page. I wanted to thank you for your time for this particularly wonderful read!! I definitely really liked every bit of it and i also have you bookmarked to check out new things in your web site.


    June 26, 2021 at 02:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Kathey Shortle


    June 26, 2021 at 03:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. RV Repair Services Near Me


    June 26, 2021 at 03:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Harris Edsall

    Can I just say what a relief to find someone that really understands what they're talking about on the net. You certainly realize how to bring an issue to light and make it important. A lot more people have to look at this and understand this side of the story. I was surprised you are not more popular given that you most certainly possess the gift.


    June 26, 2021 at 03:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. bdtv

    Coi Thẳng Bóng Đábangthang.tvTheo thể thức thi đấu, đội thắng ở cặp đấu này sẽ giành tấm vé đến Lithuania trong ngày hội bóng đá lớn nhất thế giới cho futsal. Tuyển futsal Việt Nam bước vào trận play-off lượt đi tranh vé dự play-off World Cup 2021 với sự tự tin. Tuy vậy, HLV Phạm Minh Giang bày tỏ, toàn đội không ngán Lebanon tuy vậy sẽ tìm cách để khắc chế sức mạnh của đối thủ bởi trên băng ghế huấn luyện là nhà cầm quân Ramiro Lopez, người từng dẫn dắt futsal Tây Ban Nha.|Dựa vào lịch thi đấu, quý khách có thể chuẩn bị xếp việc làm


    June 26, 2021 at 04:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Divina Makowsky

    I would like to thank you for the efforts you've put in writing this site. I really hope to view the same high-grade content by you in the future as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has inspired me to get my own site now 😉


    June 26, 2021 at 05:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. lich bay vsp

    Xoilac Tv Trực Tiếp SocceribongdaXem soccer trực tuyến Trực tiếp Odd BK vs Sarpsborg, 20h ngày 24/5, giải VĐQG Na Uy. Xem lịch phát sóng trực tiếp đá bóng EURO thời điểm hôm nay được Webthethao update chủ yếu xác nhất.


    June 26, 2021 at 06:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. RV Suspension Repair Near Me

    After looking at a handful of the articles on your website, I honestly like your technique of writing a blog. I saved as a favorite it to my bookmark website list and will be checking back in the near future. Take a look at my website as well and tell me how you feel.


    June 26, 2021 at 08:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. RV Parts And Repair Near Me

    Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you writing this write-up plus the rest of the website is really good.


    June 26, 2021 at 09:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Efren Ontiveroz

    This site was... how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I've found something which helped me. Appreciate it!


    June 26, 2021 at 09:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. RV Repairs Nearby


    June 26, 2021 at 10:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. www.pharmaceptica.com

    chlooquine https://www.pharmaceptica.com/

    June 26, 2021 at 10:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. thvl1 trực tiếp hôm nay

    Xoilac Tv Trực Tiếp đá Bóngtruyen hinh truc tuyen thvl1Xem đá bóng trực tuyến Trực tiếp Odd BK vs Sarpsborg, 20h ngày 24/5, giải VĐQG Na Uy. Xem lịch phát sóng thẳng đá bóng EURO thời điểm hôm nay được Webthethao update chủ yếu xác nhất.


    June 26, 2021 at 12:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. thvl 1

    Thẳng Soccer Hôm Naytruc tiep bong da seagame hom nayXem đá bóng trực tuyến Trực tiếp Odd BK vs Sarpsborg, 20h ngày 24/5, giải VĐQG Na Uy. Xem lịch vạc sóng thẳng soccer EURO hôm nay được Webthethao update chính xác nhất.


    June 26, 2021 at 12:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. RV Repair Service Near Me

    You have made some decent points there. I checked on the web for more information about the issue and found most individuals will go along with your views on this site.


    June 26, 2021 at 13:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. RV Ac Repair Near Me


    June 26, 2021 at 13:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. RV Mobile Repair Near Me

    Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging on blogs I stumbleupon everyday. It will always be helpful to read through articles from other authors and practice a little something from other sites.


    June 26, 2021 at 13:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. keo nha cai

    Trực Tiếp Soccer Ngày Hôm Nay, Liên Kết Xem đá Bóng Trực Tuyến 24h sanh rongĐội tuyển chọn nước ta chỉ cần một kết quả hòa có bàn thắng nhằm lần loại hai góp mặt tại World Cup futsal. Nhưng, để làm được như vậy


    June 26, 2021 at 14:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. RV Repair Shop Near My Location


    June 26, 2021 at 15:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Ww1 Leadership


    June 26, 2021 at 17:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. dr. death podcast


    June 26, 2021 at 18:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. podcast names


    June 26, 2021 at 20:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Effective Leadership


    June 26, 2021 at 21:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. call your girlfriend podcast

    This web site certainly has all the information and facts I wanted concerning this subject and didnít know who to ask.


    June 26, 2021 at 21:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. ty le nha cai

    Xoilac Tv Thẳng Soccer ku.ku777Đội tuyển chọn nước ta chỉ cần thiết một kết trái hòa có bàn thắng để lần thứ hai góp mặt tại World Cup futsal. Nhưng, nhằm làm được như vậy


    June 26, 2021 at 22:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. tony schiavone podcast


    June 26, 2021 at 23:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Adaptive Leadership

    Good article. I will be going through many of these issues as well..


    June 26, 2021 at 23:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Executive Leadership Training

    Good information. Lucky me I discovered your blog by accident (stumbleupon). I have book-marked it for later!


    June 27, 2021 at 00:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. mysterious universe podcast

    Very good post! We are linking to this great post on our website. Keep up the great writing.


    June 27, 2021 at 00:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. xem k+ online

    Trực Tiếp Bóng Đá Việt Nam Vs Lebanon. Xem Truc Tiep Bong Da. Futsal Việt Namlich phat song bong daXem soccer trực tuyến Trực tiếp Odd BK vs Sarpsborg, 20h ngày 24/5, giải VĐQG Na Uy. Xem lịch vạc sóng thẳng đá bóng EURO thời điểm hôm nay được Webthethao cập nhật chủ yếu xác nhất.


    June 27, 2021 at 00:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. morning joe podcast


    June 27, 2021 at 00:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. 15 Commitments Of Conscious Leadership


    June 27, 2021 at 01:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. this american life podcast

    You have made some good points there. I looked on the web to learn more about the issue and found most individuals will go along with your views on this website.


    June 27, 2021 at 01:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. ron burgundy podcast

    I was able to find good info from your blog posts.


    June 27, 2021 at 01:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. my favorite murder podcast


    June 27, 2021 at 02:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. how to set up a podcast


    June 27, 2021 at 02:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Women's Leadership Conference


    June 27, 2021 at 03:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. outkick the coverage podcast


    June 27, 2021 at 03:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. podcast ufo

    Saved as a favorite, I really like your blog!


    June 27, 2021 at 04:09 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

August 2011
  • An error has occurred, which probably means the feed is down. Try again later.