Schizoaffective Disorder

Schizoaffective Disorder
Schizoaffective Disorder


Schizoaffective disorder is a serious mental illness that has features of two different disorders—schizophrenia and an affective (mood) disorder, either major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder.

Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that distorts the way a person thinks, acts, expresses emotions, perceives reality, and relates to others.

Depression is an illness that is marked by feelings of sadness, worthlessness, or hopelessness. It may also include problems concentrating and remembering details.

Bipolar disorder is characterized by cycling mood changes, including severe highs (mania) and lows (depression).

Schizoaffective disorder is a life-long illness that can impact all areas of daily living, including:

● Work

● School

● Social contacts

● Relationships

Most people with this disorder have periodic episodes when their symptoms surface. While there is no cure for schizoaffective disorder, symptoms may often be controlled with treatment, particularly with medications.


Causes of Schizoaffective Disorder

● The exact cause is not known, but we do know that there is a chemical imbalance in people affected by schizoaffective disorder.

● Genes: research has shown that the same genes may be responsible for schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and bipolar disorder. People with this disorder are more likely to have family members who have been diagnosed with these conditions.

● Stress: stress can contribute to the start of an episode of schizoaffective disorder, such as bereavement, physical illness, car accident, or family/relationship problems. In particular, traumatic experiences in childhood can increase the chances of developing this condition in the future.


● Feel constantly sad and fatigued

● Have lost interest in everyday activities

● Are indecisive and unable to concentrate

● Sleep and eat too little or too much

● Complain of various physical symptoms

● May have recurrent thoughts of death and suicide

Symptoms of mania:

● Suffering from sleeplessness

● Compulsively talkative

● Agitated and distractible

● Convinced of their inflated importance

● Susceptible to buying sprees

● Prone to cheerfulness turning to irritability

● Indiscreet sexual advances, and foolish investments

● Paranoia, and rage

Symptoms of psychosis:

● Hearing or seeing things that aren’t there

● Bizarre thinking

● Difficulty with emotions or appearing apathetic

● Changes in speech

● Have confused thinking

● Paranoia

● Strange or out of character behavior

● And inappropriate emotional reactions


Treatment for schizoaffective disorder varies depending on the type and severity of the symptoms, but individuals typically respond well to a combination of medication, psychotherapy, and life-skills training. Hospitalization is necessary in some cases.

Medication management: Medication can include antipsychotic medications (to manage symptoms like delusions and hallucinations), mood stabilizers (for bipolar type), and antidepressants (for depressive type.)

Psychotherapy: Individual cognitive behavioral therapy and family-focused therapy can help individuals with schizoaffective disorder manage and learn to cope with their symptoms. Group therapy helps decrease social isolation.

Life skills training: Learning social and vocational skills can help reduce isolation and improve the quality of life for individuals with schizoaffective disorder. Social skills training helps improve communication and improve interactions with others both at home and in the work setting, and vocational training helps people prepare for, find, and maintain employment.

There is no cure for schizoaffective disorder, so long-term treatment is required. With proper treatment, people with schizoaffective disorder can work, improve their relationships, and avoid relapses.


Difficulty In Distinguishing Illnesses

Schizoaffective Disorder is often confused with Bipolar Disorder with psychotic features. Both diagnoses include mood changes that impact life as well as symptoms of psychosis. A person diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder primarily experiences symptoms of psychosis even if mood problems don’t exist. However, when mood problems flare up, such as during a depressed or manic episode, the symptoms of psychosis can worsen. Someone who is diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder with psychotic features often only experiences psychosis during a mood swing.

This distinction is not always as obvious as the description suggests. Emotion and behavior are more fluid and less easy to classify than physical symptoms.