What is Schizoaffective Disorder?
According to the National Institute of Health, schizoaffective disorder is a mental condition that causes both a loss of contact with reality (psychosis) and mood problems (depression or mania). A person may experience psychosis and mood disturbances separately or simultaneously and will have periods of severe symptoms followed by improvement. People are often misdiagnosed as having schizophrenia or bipolar disorder because the illness shares the same symptoms. Like many other mental illnesses, there isn’t a known cause, but genetics and brain chemistry play a role. It’s also believed that the disorder can be triggered by a stressful live event and the use of psychoactive drugs, like LSD.
The symptoms of schizoaffective disorder can be quite severe so they should be monitored closely and treated as early as possible. There are two types of schizoaffective disorder – bipolar type and depressive type. Symptoms of the disorder include:
- Hallucinations (false beliefs)
- Delusions (hearing voices)
- A major depressive episode
- Episodes of depression or mania are present for the majority of the time
- Social and occupational impairment that inhibits functioning on a regular basis
- Paranoid thoughts
- Other symptoms that cannot be explained by drug use or another medical condition
If you notice any of these symptoms in yourself or a loved one, an evaluation by a mental health professional should be considered. In order to be diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, a person must have psychotic and mood disorder symptoms. Additionally, the psychotic symptoms must be present during a period of normal mood (no depression or mania) for at least two weeks. Psychotic and mood symptoms can be seen in a person with bipolar disorder as well, but an extreme disturbance in mood is an important marker for schizoaffective disorder.
Medication and therapy is used to treat schizoaffective disorder. Often antipsychotic medication is used to treat the psychotic symptoms and antidepressants or mood stabilizers are used to improve mood. Cognitive behavioral therapy and family therapy is also recommended to help a person improve social skills and understand thought patterns.