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Schizoaffective disorder


Disease: Schizoaffective disorder Schizoaffective disorder
Category: Psychiatric diseases

Disease Definition:

In case a person experiences a combination of schizophrenia symptoms, including delusions or hallucinations; in addition to mood disorder symptoms, such as depression or mania, then that person has a condition called schizoaffective disorder.


This condition isn't viewed as a distinct disorder by all experts because even though some agree that schizoaffective disorder is a separate disease with its own symptoms and treatments, others view it simply as schizophrenia with some mood symptoms.


People with untreated schizoaffective disorder may rely heavily on family or psychiatric group homes, or they may lead lonely lives and have trouble attending school or even holding down a job.


With treatment, although the prognosis of people with schizoaffective disorder isn't as good as those who have mood disorders alone, but it's still better than those with schizophrenia.

Work Group:

Symptoms, Causes


Not all people have the same symptoms of schizoaffective disorder. Usually, people with this condition experience mood disturbances, such as depressed or manic mood; and psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations, paranoid thoughts and disorganized thinking. People with schizoaffective disorder are mostly antisocial and shunned by the people around them. These psychotic and mood symptoms could appear either at the same time, or interchangeably.


Usually, a person with schizoaffective disorder experiences cycles of severe symptoms, which will be followed by an improved outlook. However, a person should have demonstrated hallucinations or delusions for at least two weeks without evidence of the symptoms of mood disorder to establish a diagnosis.


In most cases, bipolar disorder (bipolar-type schizoaffective) and depression (depressive-type schizoaffective) are the mood disorders that accompany the schizophrenic features. Some of the signs and symptoms of schizoaffective disorder may be:


  • Having delusions, which are false fixed beliefs
  • Irrelevant or incoherent speech
  • Strange or unusual thoughts or perceptions
  • Deficits in attention and memory
  • Disorganized thinking, such as having unclear or confused thinking
  • Paranoid thoughts and ideas
  • Catatonic behavior, which is lack of response, sometimes with an extreme agitation that is not influenced by the environment
  • Manic mood or a sudden uncharacteristic increase in energy and behavioral displays
  • Bouts of depression
  • Changes in appetite and energy
  • Sleep disturbances, such as difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Thoughts of suicide or homicide
  • Hearing voices or having other hallucinations
  • Lack of concern about physical appearance and hygiene
  • Irritability and poor temper control


People should pay attention to symptoms of psychosis and a mood disorder in case they suspect that a friend or loved one may have a schizoaffective disorder.


People with schizoaffective disorder usually don't seek treatment. Someone could gently suggest that the person seek medical attention, starting with a primary care physician or mental health professional.


Similar to schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder also has distinct genetic links. Even though some experts believe that brain chemistry, such as an imbalance of serotonin and dopamine in the brain, may be involved, but the exact cause of schizoaffective disorder is still not known. Serotonin and dopamine are chemicals that help relay electronic signals in the brain (neurotransmitters), and they help regulate mood. Other experts think that fetal exposure to viral illnesses or toxins or birth complications may play a role in the development of this disorder.


This disorder could be considered a neurodevelopmental disorder, in which delays or variations occur in the way a child's brain develops. Schizophrenia is also considered a neurodevelopmental disorder. Environmental factors could play a role, but genetics are definitely involved, and people with relatives who have schizoaffective disorder are much more likely to develop the condition.


Usually, young people have the bipolar-type schizoaffective, while older people have the depressive-type schizoaffective.


Being at risk of developing schizophrenia, having a relative who has schizophrenia, having a relative who has a mood disorder and having a relative who has schizoaffective disorder are some of the factors that could increase someone’s risk of developing schizoaffective disorder.



In case a person has schizoaffective disorder, then he/she will also have an increased risk of:


  • Major depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Developing schizophrenia


A person may also experience the signs and symptoms of the complications that could directly or indirectly accompany this disorder.


A combination of medications and counseling is usually the best treatment for people with schizoaffective disorder. Based on the type and severity of the signs and symptoms, and whether the disorder is depressive-type or bipolar-type, the exact regimen of the treatment will vary.
Usually, medications are prescribed to stabilize mood, treat depression and relieve psychotic symptoms.


Some of the medications that could be prescribed are:


Some examples of these medications include fluoxetine, citalopram and escitalopram. In case the underlying mood disorder of schizoaffective disorder is depression, these medications will be prescribed to alleviate feelings of hopelessness, sadness, or difficulty with concentration and sleep.


Also called neuroleptics, some examples are risperidone, olanzapine and clozapine. These medications are prescribed to alleviate psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations, delusions and paranoia.

Mood-stabilizing medications:

Some examples are divalproex and lithium. People with bipolar disorder have episodes of mania and depressed mood. In case the schizoaffective disorder is bipolar-type, these medications are prescribed to level out the highs and lows of bipolar disorder, which is also known as manic depression.


Some of the methods of therapy that don't include medications are:

Family or group therapy:

When people with schizoaffective disorders are able to discuss their real-life problems with others, treatment will be more effective. To help decrease social isolation and provide a reality check during periods of psychosis, people with schizoaffective disorder could also benefit from supportive group settings.

Psychotherapy and counseling:

In order to help people with schizoaffective disorder to better understand their condition and feel hopeful about their future, a trusting relationship should be built in therapy. Real-life plans, problems and relationships are the areas where an effective session should focus on. The patient could also be introduced to new skills and behaviors that are specific to settings, such as the home.


Usually, the prognosis of people with schizoaffective disorder varies from one person to another, and in most cases, long-term treatment is necessary.


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