Schizoaffective Disorder

Schizoaffective disorder is a persistent mental health problem that combines symptoms of schizophrenia with those of a mood condition like major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder. Many people with schizoaffective disorder are initially misdiagnosed as having depression or bipolar illness.

Scientists aren’t sure whether a schizoaffective disorder is primarily caused by schizophrenia or a mood disorder. However, it’s generally treated and regarded as a mix of both mental disorders. Schizoaffective disorder has no cure. However, treatment can help people cope with severe symptoms and enhance their quality of life

Schizophrenia and
Mood Disorders

There are two recognizable types of schizoaffective disorder: bipolar and depressive. The type is based on the associated mood disorder:

Bipolar disorder type

This condition has various types of mood swings. Bipolar affects people with uncontrollable, dramatic highs (mania) or devastating lows (depression).

Depression type

People suffering from depression often feel hopeless, worthless, and sad. They may also have difficulty focusing or remembering things. In severe cases, people with depression may experience suicidal thoughts.

Schizoaffective Disorder, Major Depression and Psychotic Disorders

Understanding the distinctions between schizoaffective disorder and schizophrenia may be difficult, especially since both entail the primary psychotic symptoms of hallucinations, delusions, and erratic thinking. However, they are two distinct diseases with their own diagnostic criteria and therapy.

One of the main symptoms of schizophrenia is not being able to distinguish reality from imagination. People with this disorder may have trouble acting appropriately in social situations and controlling their emotions. This frequently leads to problems in interpersonal relationships or other critical aspects of their lives, such as work or school.

People with both schizoaffective disorder and schizophrenia often experience hallucinations and delusions. Hallucinations are false sensory perceptions, such as hearing voices or seeing images that don’t exist. Delusions are false beliefs, like thinking time travel is possible or that someone has secretly taken on another person’s appearance. The person is unaware of their perceptual problems and false beliefs about both mental disorders. The symptoms usually begin in a person’s early 20s and often run in families.

While the differences in symptoms are subtle, they can help differentiate between the two disorders. For example:

Although a person suffering from schizophrenia can become depressed or manic, these mood disorder symptoms are not always part of their condition. However, a schizoaffective disorder will have ongoing and constant mood symptoms.

Psychotic symptoms in schizophrenia tend to be persistent, while a person with a schizoaffective disorder generally has briefer episodes of psychotic symptoms that come and go.

Causes of
Schizoaffective Disorder

While the exact causes of the condition are unknown, experts believe it is associated with the following factors:

Genetic History of Struggling With Mental illness

Schizoaffective disorder often runs in families. It happens in 10% of people with the disease who have a first-degree relative, such as a brother or parent. According to researchers, specific genes acquired from one’s parents may raise the likelihood of schizoaffective disorder. Doctors have also found that people with schizoaffective disorder frequently have unusual genetic abnormalities that might affect brain development.

Brain Chemistry or Underlying Mood Disorder

Imbalances in various brain chemicals, such as glutamate, serotonin, and dopamine, have been associated with the disease. These imbalances impact how the brain responds to stimuli and can cause hypersensitivity and hallucinations, which are prominent symptoms of schizoaffective disorder.

Scientists have discovered minor abnormalities in the brain anatomy of those who suffer from the disease. These changes include diminished gray matter, larger ventricles (fluid-filled chambers in the middle of the brain), and increased or decreased activity in certain parts of the brain.

Environmental Factors with Significant Health Problems

Some experts think that a person’s environment and heredity factors may have a role in the development of schizoaffective disorder. Environmental factors may include birth-related health issues such as infection, viral exposure, or malnutrition. Other unidentified psychological variables may also play a role.

Other Substance Abuse Problems

Schizophrenia and addiction, often known as substance use disorder (SUD), are frequently seen in dual diagnosis cases. An estimated 50% of people with schizophrenia have a history of substance abuse. People with schizoaffective disorder often abuse drugs and alcohol in an effort to self-medicate or relieve anxiety and sadness.

Although substance abuse does not cause schizoaffective disorders, it has been noted as a risk factor. Someone with pre-existing genetic risk factors for schizophrenia may develop an active case after a period of substance abuse. Using marijuana, cocaine, and amphetamines can potentially aggravate and intensify schizoaffective symptoms.

Because schizoaffective disorder and substance abuse symptoms are so similar, the conditions are frequently confused. This can sometimes make diagnosing schizophrenia or co-occurring mental health disorders challenging. On the other hand, researchers continue to examine the illnesses separately and concurrently to increase the accuracy of dual diagnosis.


Schizoaffective disorder is characterized by various symptoms that make it difficult for sufferers to lead a normal life. The symptoms might be cognitive, behavioral, or emotional. Typical signs of schizoaffective disorder include:


A person with schizophrenia may have beliefs and thoughts that are not grounded in reality. These delusions are typically based on misreading sensory experiences (for example, seeing a light flicker and misinterpreting it as a signal). It might be difficult to persuade someone who has schizophrenia that their delusions are not real.

Delusions can include the following:

  • Feeling harassed or intimidated by a real or fictitious person.
  • Believing in one’s extraordinary fortune or magical abilities.
  • Feeling that a tragedy is on the way.
  • They believe they are someone, such as a historical person or a celebrity.


Hallucinations occur when a person hears, sees, smells, or feels something that does not exist. Hearing voices is one of the most common hallucinations in people suffering from schizophrenia. A person with schizophrenia may believe in an experience that isn’t real.

Disordered Speech

Disordered thought leads to disorganized speaking. Schizophrenia patients frequently struggle to organize and structure their thoughts. This might result in abrupt, mid-sentence topic shifts or the use of nonsensical words that are difficult to understand. In addition, the individual may repeat words and phrases, utilize rhyming terms, or make random, outlandish assertions.

Diagnosis of
Schizoaffective Disorder

The distinctions between categories of mental illness, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, must be made before diagnosing the schizoaffective disorder. Making sure that the symptoms are not due to substance use, medication, or a medical problem is essential. Determining a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder may include:

Physical exam

A mental health professional will often use this to identify or rule out potential causes of symptoms and check for any possible complications.

Tests and screenings

Various tests may be utilized by mental health professionals as a part of a comprehensive examination. These might include investigations to rule out similar symptoms and drug and alcohol screenings. In some instances, the doctor may also request imaging tests, such as an MRI or CT scan.

Psychiatric evaluation

A physician or mental health professional assesses mental status by looking at the patient’s appearance and demeanor and asking about thoughts, emotions, hallucinations, substance use, and potential for suicide. This also includes a conversation about family and personal history.

Treating Schizoaffective

People with schizoaffective disorder typically respond best to a combination of therapies, such as psychotherapy and life skills training. Treatment varies depending on the type and degree of symptoms and whether the illness is manic or depressive. In certain situations, hospitalization may be required. Long-term therapy can aid in the management of symptoms.


Typically, doctors prescribe medications for a schizoaffective disorder to relieve psychotic symptoms, stabilize mood and treat depression. These medications may include:


Antipsychotic drugs are prescribed to help manage psychotic symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations.

Mood-stabilizing medications

Mood stabilizers are prescribed for bipolar type schizoaffective disorder. A Mood stabilizer can help to balance out the manic highs and depressive lows of mood disorders.


Antidepressants are prescribed when depression is the underlying mood disorder. Antidepressants can be used to treat symptoms of sadness, hopelessness, or difficulty sleeping and concentrating.


In addition to medication, psychotherapy can also help substantially. Psychotherapy may include:

Individual therapy

Psychotherapy may assist in the reduction of symptoms and the normalization of thought processes. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help the patient identify particular behaviors or ways of thinking that lead to symptoms of schizoaffective disorder. In therapy, a positive therapeutic relationship can assist people with the schizoaffective disorder to better understand their problem and learn to manage symptoms. Effective sessions focus on realistic goals, challenges, relationships, and coping methods.

Family or group therapy

Therapy is more successful when individuals with schizoaffective disorder can discuss their real-life issues with others. During manic phases, group settings can also assist in reducing social isolation, provide a reality check for periods of psychosis, and improve social skills.

Life skills training

Learning various social skills can help reduce isolation and improve quality of life. These skills focus on improving communication and social interactions, as well as the ability to participate in daily activities. New skills can be practiced in settings such as the home or workplace.

Managing Symptoms of Schizoaffective Disorder After Treatment

Schizoaffective disorder is a chronic mental health condition that requires lifelong management. However, effective treatments and therapies are available to help minimize symptoms. Here are some tips to make these treatments most effective: 

Cut out drugs and alcohol

When treating a schizoaffective disorder, you should avoid alcohol and drugs that aren’t your prescription medicines. Alcohol and certain chemicals can complicate your therapy. 

Have a daily routine

Having a day-to-day routine can help control the symptoms of mania and depression.

Have a support system

Having a positive and supportive social network is key to recovery. Keep your loved ones updated on your treatment plan and progress, and let them help you in whatever ways they can.

Keep stress in check

If you are under stress, your symptoms may worsen, even if you already receive treatment for your condition.

How To Help People
With Schizoaffective Disorder

If you think someone you know is displaying schizoaffective disorder symptoms, discuss your concerns with them. You can’t make somebody seek professional help if they don’t want to, but you express encouragement and provide support. Also, see if you can find a qualified doctor or mental health specialist together.

Help is available if you or a loved one is dealing with a schizoaffective disorder. Don’t allow your suffering to go on alone. Get in touch with Psyclarity Health right now. One of our kind treatment navigators can assist you through the difficulty you’re facing.


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