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. This is a disorder of the mind that affects your thoughts and emotions, and may affect your actions.
- Depressive subtype: involves major depressive episodes only
- Bipolar subtype: involves manic episodes (high energy with extreme elevated, expansive, or irritable mood) with or without depressive episodes
An individual diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder is said to have recurring episodes of elevated or depressed mood or of simultaneously elevated and depressed mood that either occur together with or alternate with distortions of perception. Put simply – the individual experiences a combination of schizophrenia symptoms (hallucinations, delusions) and mood disorder symptoms (mania or depression).
Many people with schizoaffective disorder are often incorrectly diagnosed at first with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia because it shares symptoms of multiple mental health conditions. Schizoaffective disorder is seen in about 0.3% of the population. Men and women experience schizoaffective disorder at the same rate, but men often develop the illness at an earlier age. This disorder typically affects cognition (thinking, knowing, remembering, judging and problem-solving) and emotion.
The symptoms of schizoaffective disorder can be severe and need to be monitored closely. Depending on the type of mood disorder diagnosed, depression or bipolar disorder, people will experience different symptoms:
- Hallucinations, which are seeing or hearing things that aren’t there.
- Delusions, which are false, fixed beliefs that are held regardless of contradictory evidence.
- Disorganized thinking. A person may switch very quickly from one topic to another or provide answers that are completely unrelated.
- Depressed mood. If a person has been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder depressive type they will experience feelings of sadness, emptiness, and feelings of worthlessness or other symptoms of depression.
- Changes in appetite and energy
- Disorganized speech that is not logical
- Lack of concern with hygiene or grooming
- Mood that is either too good, or depressed or irritable
- Problems sleeping
- Problems with concentration
- Sadness or hopelessness
- Social isolation
- Speaking so quickly that others cannot interrupt you
Symptoms of psychosis and mood disorders may occur together or separately. Oftentimes, individuals with schizoaffective disorder experience symptoms in cycles alternating with periods of improvement. Schizoaffective disorder is less common than schizophrenia and mood disorders. Schizoaffective disorder can be managed effectively with medication and therapy. Co-occurring substance use disorders are a serious risk and require integrated treatment.