Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia

Care and Education for Serious Mental Health Conditions

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Overview

Bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are severe mental illnesses commonly referred to as psychotic disorders, meaning symptoms can include psychosis—impaired thoughts and emotions severe enough to induce a disconnect from reality. McLean Hospital offers comprehensive treatment and education to help individuals understand and manage symptoms of their illness.

Bipolar disorder causes severe shifts in mood, ranging from depressive lows to manic highs. These changes in mood are different from what may be experienced by most people, and if left untreated, often worsen. Bipolar disorder is treatable, and with proper care and attention to symptoms and recovery, individuals can learn to manage their disorder.

Schizophrenia is a complex brain disorder. Symptoms can include a disconnect from reality, paranoia, seeing or hearing things that aren’t there, and disorganized thinking. Though this a lifelong psychiatric illness, there are successful treatments, including medications and therapies, that allow individuals to live well with schizophrenia.

Find the help you need. Learn more below about treatment options at McLean, definitions, and helpful resources.

Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia Treatment at McLean

For patients who live with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or other severe forms of mental illness, McLean Hospital offers an array of mental health services. Successful treatment of these disorders involves a combination of elements, including medications, talk therapy, symptom education, and rehabilitation and social supports.

Staff in our inpatient, residential, outpatient, and community-based programs have specialized expertise in treating this patient population and in providing individualized support and education to family members. McLean is dedicated to continuity of services during transitions and helps to coordinate care with community clinicians, social service agencies, families, and other support systems.

  • Appleton – Self-pay, longer-term residential care for adults ages 18 and older who have schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or persistent psychiatric illness.
  • Adult Inpatient Services – Short-term treatment focusing on intensive crisis stabilization for patients with mood, anxiety, and/or psychotic disorders.
  • Treatment at McLeanAdolescent Acute Residential Treatment (ART) Program – Short-term, residential treatment for adolescents ages 13 to 19 with emotional and behavioral difficulties including those with substance use disorders.
  • Behavioral Health Partial Hospital Program – A comprehensive, multi-track treatment program serving as a step-down from or as an alternative to inpatient care.
  • McLean-Franciscan Child and Adolescent Inpatient Program – Intensive psychiatric stabilization for children and adolescents ages 3 to 19, located in Brighton, Massachusetts.
  • McLean OnTrack – A program specializing in the treatment of the onset of bipolar disorders and other conditions presenting with psychosis specific to adults ages 18 to 30.
  • Waverley Place – A community-based rehabilitation program offering coordinated care and support for adults with chronic psychiatric illness.
  • Program of Assertive Community Treatment (PACT) – This “hospital without walls” offers community-based clinical services and social supports.

What Are Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia?

According to National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), every year, 2.9% of the US population is diagnosed with bipolar disorder, with nearly 83% of cases being classified as severe. Bipolar disorder is a chronic mental illness that causes dramatic shifts in a person’s mood, energy, and ability to think clearly. People with bipolar disorder have high and low moods, known as mania and depression, which differ from the typical ups and downs most people experience.

With mania, people may feel extremely irritable or euphoric. People living with bipolar may experience several extremes in the shape of agitation, sleeplessness, and talkativeness or sadness and hopelessness. They may also have extreme pleasure-seeking or risk-taking behaviors. If left untreated, the symptoms usually get worse. However, with a good treatment plan and a strong lifestyle that includes self-management, many people live well with the condition.

Schizophrenia is a chronic and severe mental health disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. People with schizophrenia may seem like they have lost touch with reality and can experience hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized thinking. Although schizophrenia is not as common as other mental illnesses, the symptoms can be very disabling. With treatment, often including medications and coping skills, it is possible to live well this condition.

According to NAMI, schizophrenia affects about 1% of Americans. The average age of onset tends to be in the late teens to the early 20s for men, and the late 20s to early 30s for women. It is uncommon for schizophrenia to be diagnosed in a person younger than 12 or older than 40.

Psychosis is characterized by an impaired relationship with reality. People who are psychotic may have either hallucinations or delusions. Hallucinations are sensory experiences that occur within the absence of an actual stimulus. For example, a person having an auditory hallucination may hear their mother yelling at them when their mother isn’t around. Someone having a visual hallucination may see something, like a person in front of them, who isn’t actually there. Psychosis is manageable with therapy and medications. Early intervention (recognizing and treating the symptoms when they first arise) is an important part of best outcomes for this diagnosis.

Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia Resources

You may find the following organizations useful for more information on bipolar disorder and schizophrenia:

Books about Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia

McLean Hospital faculty have penned more than 50 books in recent years, including these books about psychotic disorders.

Living with Someone Who's Living With Bipolar DisorderLiving with Someone Who’s Living with Bipolar Disorder: A Practical Guide for Family, Friends and Coworkers
by Chelsea Lowe and Bruce M. Cohen, MD, PhD
(Jossey-Bass/John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2010)


Chemotherapy in PsychiatryChemotherapy in Psychiatry: Pharmacologic Basis of Treatments for Major Mental Illness, 3rd ed.
by Ross J. Baldessarini
(Springer, 2013)


Learn More

Looking for information on another mental health condition? Visit one of these pages to find out more.

ADDICTION ANXIETY AND OCD
BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER CHILD AND ADOLESCENT MENTAL HEALTH
DEPRESSION EATING DISORDERS
OLDER ADULT MENTAL HEALTH TRAUMA