All of my life I’ve seen or heard hallucinations. Whether they be simple voices saying, “Over here!” while being all alone, or waking up to seeing a person on my ceiling that isn’t there, it’s happened all my life. I’ve never discussed this with anyone, either, in fear of being put into a mental institution. But recently, I’ve been showing signs of bipolar disorder. I know it isn’t accurate to self-diagnose, but I spoke with my psychology teacher in school about the bipolar symptoms, and she says that it seems I may be bipolar. I’m not saying I’m both schizophrenic and bipolar, given I find it very unlikely to be both. But I have to ask… is it possible??

A. It is possible to have both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is more common among women than among men and affects approximately 4 percent of the population. Schizophrenia is less common than bipolar disorder and affects approximately 1 percent of the population. Males have a higher prevalence of schizophrenia than females. A person who has symptoms of both bipolar disorder and schizophrenia may be diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. Schizoaffective disorder is a mental health condition in which individuals have mood problems and psychotic symptoms.

To know if you have one or either of these disorders, you would have to be evaluated by a mental health professional. Diagnosing mental health disorders would require gathering many details about your interpersonal life and symptoms. Some diagnosticians also use specially designed interview and assessment tools to determine if a person has a mental illness. Diagnosing mental disorders is a complicated and nuanced endeavor which is why I would advise against self-diagnosis.

If you are hearing voices and experiencing hallucinations, then I would strongly recommend seeing a mental health professional. He or she will collect information about your symptoms, determine if a disorder is present and recommend a course of treatment. It’s fine to educate yourself about mental health disorders but it’s not a good idea to self-diagnose. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle
Mental Health & Criminal Justice