Definition

What is schizoaffective disorder?

Schizoaffective disorder describes a condition that includes aspects of both schizophrenia and a mood disorder (either major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder).

Scientists are not entirely certain whether schizoaffective disorder is a condition related mainly to schizophrenia or a mood disorder. However, it is usually viewed and treated as a hybrid or combination of both conditions.

How common is schizoaffective disorder?

It is believed that schizoaffective disorder is approximately one-third as common as schizophrenia, leaving it with a lifetime prevalence of 0.3%. The disorder is said to be more prevalent in women than it is in men, as two-thirds of people diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder are women. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of schizoaffective disorder?

The symptoms of schizoaffective disorder may vary greatly from one person to the next and may be mild or severe. They may include:

Depression

  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Changes in sleeping patterns (sleeping very little or a lot)
  • Agitation (being very restless)
  • Lack of energy
  • Loss of interest in usual activities
  • Feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness
  • Guilt or self-blame
  • Trouble with thinking or concentration
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Mania

  • Being more active than usual, including at work, in your social life, or sexually
  • Talking more or faster
  • Rapid or racing thoughts
  • Little need for sleep
  • Agitation
  • Being full of yourself
  • Being easily distracted
  • Self-destructive or dangerous behavior (such as going on spending sprees, driving recklessly, or having risky sex)

Schizophrenia

  • Delusions (strange beliefs that the person refuses to give up, even when they get the facts)
  • Hallucinations (sensing things that aren’t real, such as hearing voices)
  • Disorganized thinking
  • Odd or unusual behavior
  • Slow movements or not moving at all
  • Lack of emotion in facial expression and speech
  • Poor motivation
  • Problems with speech and communication

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes schizoaffective disorder?

The exact cause of schizoaffective disorder is not known. A combination of factors may contribute to its development, such as genetics and variations in brain chemistry and structure.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for schizoaffective disorder?

There are many risk factors for schizoaffective disorder, such as:

  • Having a close blood relative who has schizoaffective disorder, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder
  • Stressful events that trigger symptoms
  • Taking mind-altering (psychoactive or psychotropic) drugs

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is schizoaffective disorder diagnosed?

Diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder involves ruling out other mental health disorders and concluding that symptoms are not due to substance use, medication or a medical condition. Determining a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder may include:

  • Physical exam. This may be done to help rule out other problems that could be causing symptoms and to check for any related complications.
  • Tests and screenings. These may include tests that help rule out conditions with similar symptoms, and screening for alcohol and drugs. The doctor may also request imaging studies, such as an MRI or CT scan.
  • Psychiatric evaluation. A doctor or mental health professional checks mental status by observing appearance and demeanor and asking about thoughts, moods, delusions, hallucinations, substance use, and potential for suicide. This also includes a discussion of family and personal history.
  • Diagnostic criteria for schizoaffective disorder. Your doctor or mental health professional may use the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association.

How is schizoaffective disorder treated?

Treatment for schizoaffective disorder includes:

 

  • Medication : Some of the medicine a person needs depends on whether they have depression or bipolar disorder, along with schizophrenia. The main medications that doctors prescribe for psychotic symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, and disordered thinking are called antipsychotics.  All antipsychotic drugs likely have value in the treatment of schizoaffective disorder, but paliperidone extended release (Invega) is the only drug that the FDA has approved to treat schizoaffective disorder. For mood-related symptoms, someone may take an antidepressant medication or a mood stabilizer such as lithium. They often will also take an antipsychotic medication.
  • Psychotherapy : The goal of this type of counseling is to help the person learn about their illness, set goals, and manage everyday problems related to the disorder. Family therapy can help families become more effective in relating to and helping a loved one who has schizoaffective disorder.
  • Skills training: This generally focuses on work and social skills, grooming and self-care, and other day-to-day activities, including money and home management.
  • Hospitalization: Psychotic episodes may require a person to be hospitalized, especially if he/she is suicidal or threatens to hurt others.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage schizoaffective disorder?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with schizoaffective disorder:

  • Learning about the disorder. Education about schizoaffective disorder may help the person stick to the treatment plan. Education also can help friends and family understand the disorder and be more compassionate.
  • Paying attention to warning signs. Identify things that may trigger symptoms or interfere with carrying out daily activities. Make a plan for what to do if symptoms return. Contact the doctor or therapist if needed to prevent the situation from worsening.
  • Joining a support group. Support groups can help make connections with others facing similar challenges. Support groups may also help family and friends cope.
  • Asking about social services assistance. These services may be able to help with affordable housing, transportation and daily activities.
  • Avoid drugs, tobacco and alcohol. Drugs, tobacco and alcohol can worsen schizoaffective symptoms or interfere with medications. If necessary, get appropriate treatment for a substance use problem.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: July 14, 2017 | Last Modified: July 14, 2017

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