Schizoaffective disorder is a chronic mental health condition characterized primarily by symptoms of schizophrenia, such as hallucinations or delusions, and symptoms of a mood disorder, such as mania and depression.
Many people with schizoaffective disorder are often incorrectly diagnosed at first with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Because the schizoaffective disorder is not as well-known as the other two conditions, the same approach used to treat bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia is the first choice usually. The incidence of schizoaffective disorder is rare, only 0.3%. The good news, too, is that it’s manageable with medication and therapy!
However, just because it’s not as severe as schizophrenia does not mean it’s not critical. Symptoms can be severe and need careful monitoring.
What Causes Schizoaffective Disorder?
The exact cause of schizoaffective disorder is unknown. A combination of reasons may contribute to the development of the schizoaffective disease, including genetics, brain chemistry, stress, or psychoactive drug use.
How Is It Diagnosed?
The diagnosis of the schizoaffective disorder requires that an individual meet the following criteria:
- A period during which there is a significant mood disorder, either depression or mania that occurs at the same time that symptoms of schizophrenia are present.
- Delusions or hallucinations for two or more weeks in the absence of a major mood episode.
- Symptoms that meet the criteria for a major mood episode are present for the majority of the total duration of the illness.
- The abuse of drugs or medication is not responsible for the symptoms.
What are the Symptoms of Schizoaffective Disorder?
Symptoms vary depending on the type of mood disorder diagnosed – depression or bipolar disorder.
- Hallucinations -seeing or hearing things that aren’t there.
- Delusions – False, fixed beliefs held regardless of contradictory evidence.
- Disorganized thinking – Switching topics quickly from one to another or providing completely unrelated answers.
- Depressed mood – Experiencing feelings of sadness, emptiness, worthlessness, or other symptoms of depression.
- Manic behavior – Experiencing feelings of euphoria, racing thoughts, increased risky behavior, and other symptoms of mania.
What is the treatment for Schizoaffective Disorder?
Schizoaffective disorder is treated and managed in several ways:
- Medications, including mood stabilizers, antipsychotic drugs, and antidepressants
- Psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or family-focused therapy
- Self-management strategies and education