Schizoaffective Disorder: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Schizoaffective Disorder

What is schizoaffective disorder?

Schizoaffective disorder represents a mental illness characterized by symptoms of both schizophrenia and a mood disorder, such as depression or bipolar disorder. Many patients with schizophrenia are initially wrongly diagnosed as having depression or bipolar disorder.

Schizoaffective disorder isn’t known for sure if its main cause is schizophrenia or a mood disorder. Most doctors treat it as a complication of both conditions.

Schizoaffective disorder affects just 0.03 percent of the population. Both men and women are equally likely to develop it, but men typically do so at an earlier age. It can be managed by doctors, but most people who have it relapse. Substance abuse is often associated with it.

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How does schizoaffective disorder affect people?

An individual’s life can be affected by this lifelong illness in all areas. It can be difficult for a person with schizophrenia to function at work or school. Many people with schizoaffective disorder have periodic episodes, which negatively impact their relationships with family, friends, and loved ones. They might experience symptoms from time to time and then disappear again.

Who gets schizoaffective disorder?

It typically starts in late adolescence or early adulthood. Children are rarely affected. According to studies, women are more likely than men to suffer from the disorder.

Types of schizoaffective disorder

It comes in two kinds. Schizophrenia affects each of them:

  • Bipolar type: Episodes of mania and depression
  • Depressive type: Only major depressive episodes
  • Mixed type: This type of psychosis includes symptoms of manic depression as well as psychotic symptoms. Although bipolar disorder symptoms are related to psychotic symptoms, they are separate from them.

Symptoms of schizoaffective disorder

Schizoaffective Disorder Symptoms

Patients may experience mild to severe symptoms, depending on their circumstances. The following may be included:

  • Delusions (false, seemingly strange beliefs that a person won’t give up, even when confronted with the facts)
  • Depression (feeling worthless, empty or sad)
  • Hallucinations (sensing and hearing voices that aren’t real)
  • Lack of personal care (so that you do not stay clean or keep up your appearance)
  • Excessive energy levels, uncharacteristic happiness, or reckless behavior
  • Talking problems, and giving incomplete or unrelated answers to questions
  • Communication problems, giving incomplete or unrelated answers to questions. (It may be called disorganized thinking by the doctor)
  • Working, studying or socializing problems
  • Paranoid thoughts
  • Confusion
  • Catatonia, which is an inability to move normally
  • Speaking too quickly
  • Manic mood or hyperactive
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Hunger Changes
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Social isolation

Read: Pervasive Developmental Disorder

Causes of schizoaffective disorder

Researchers do not know what causes the disease. Schizophrenia has several risk factors including:

  • Genetics: Your parents might have developed schizoaffective features that you inherit from them.
  • Psychiatry and brain chemistry: People with schizophrenia and mood disorders might have difficulties with circuits in the brain that regulate mood and thinking. Additionally, schizophrenia is linked to low levels of dopamine, a chemical in the brain that helps manage these functions.
  • Those who have a high risk for schizoaffective disorder believe viral infections and highly stressful situations could play a part in the development of the disorder. The process is unclear.
  • Drug use: Taking drugs that alter the mind. Psychotropic or psychoactive drugs (as your doctor may call them) may be prescribed.

A schizoaffective disorder usually develops between the ages of 16 and 30, often between the late teen years and early adulthood. Women seem to experience it more often than men. Children rarely suffer from it.

The symptoms associated with schizoaffective disorder are similar to those of other psychotic disorders or mood disorders because it combines symptoms from two mental illnesses. The diagnosis of schizophrenia may be made by some doctors.

It may appear to others that it’s a mental illness. Therefore, it’s hard to know whether or not a person has schizoaffective disorder. Schizophrenia and mood disorders together are probably less common.

Read: Expressive Language Disorder

Diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder

Your doctor will perform a physical exam to determine if you have schizoaffective disorder. There may follow a psychiatric assessment.

Physical exam

A physical exam will be conducted by your doctor. This will assist them in diagnosing any physical condition causing your symptoms. Symptoms of seizure disorders, for example, are similar to those associated with schizoaffective disorder.

Any drugs you’re taking will also be discussed with your doctor. The symptoms of schizophrenia may be triggered by some medications. The drugs listed below include:

  • Steroid medications
  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamines
  • Phencyclidine, or PCP

A mental health professional may be suggested after a physical cause has been ruled out.

Read: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Psychiatric evaluation

Your symptoms will be discussed with a mental health professional. You’ll be asked to describe your symptoms and what you’re feeling. The doctor also will ask you about anything you may have experienced in your childhood, such as psychiatric disorders. Using your answers, they will then diagnose you and create a treatment plan.

Psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia may have similar symptoms to schizophrenia. Therefore, receiving a diagnosis is crucial. Honesty is the best policy. It’s important to tell them about all of your symptoms, even if you believe that some are not related.

In the process of collecting additional information about your condition, the doctors may change the diagnosis of schizophrenia to schizophrenic disorder, or vice versa.

The diagnostic criteria used by your mental health professional will be based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders 5th edition (DSM-5). Schizoaffective disorder is diagnosed when a person has a major mood episode for an extensive period of time.

Either a depressive or a manic episode can occur. The following symptoms must also be present during this time:

  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Disorganized speech

A negative episode may also occur during this episode, including grossly disorganized behaviors or catatonic behaviors. Decreased or absent emotion or avolition are negative symptoms. An avolition occurs when a person is not motivated.

The delusions or hallucinations must also be present for two or more weeks when you are not experiencing major mood changes (depression or manic).

It is also important that symptoms that are considered a major mood episode manifest for the vast majority of both the active and residual phases of the illness. There must also be no correlation between the symptoms and drugs, medication, or a condition generally caused by the body.

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Complications of schizoaffective disorder

Your risk may increase if you have:

  • Substance abuse problems, such as alcoholism
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Disputes with family, friends, coworkers, etc.
  • Homelessness and poverty
  • Significant health problems
  • Social isolation
  • An attempt at suicide, thoughts of suicide or suicidal behavior
  • Unemployment

Schizoaffective disorder treatment

Various treatments of schizoaffective disorder are available. You may be prescribed the following medications:

  • Antipsychotics
  • Antidepressants
  • Mood stabilizers

Your therapist may be able to help you manage your symptoms. The goal of therapy is to improve your relationships and solve problems. Each session will be based on a real-life scenario. The following may also be of interest to you:

  • Workplace skills that will help you find work and be successful
  • Financial management and living arrangements

Those with schizoaffective disorder can also take advantage of group therapy. You will learn how to effectively communicate with others in group therapy as you increase your social interaction.

Taking part in group therapy can also enable you to better manage symptoms that don’t completely resolve with medication alone.

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What are the side effects of schizoaffective treatment?

There is a possibility that side effects will occur from the medications.

Side effects of lithium:

  • Dizziness
  • Hand tremors
  • Appetite loss
  • Low thyroid hormone
  • Mild diarrhea
  • Nausea

There are a variety of side effects associated with antidepressants (depending on the type):

  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Problems with sexual function (such as delayed orgasm or erectile dysfunction)
  • Trouble sleeping or sleepiness
  • Sweating
  • Gaining or losing weight

Side effects of antipsychotic medications:

  • Drowsiness
  • Enhanced cholesterol and triglyceride levels
  • Diabetes is more likely to occur
  • Slow movements
  • Gaining weight

Prevention of schizoaffective disorder

This condition can’t be prevented. When diagnosed and treated, however, you can cut the risk of relapses and hospitalizations, as well as disruptions to your family, friends, and work, if you’re in the early stages.

Schizoaffective Disorder vs. Schizophrenia

Schizoaffective disorder combines anxiety, mania, and depression with characteristics of schizophrenia, such as hallucinations and delusions. Initially, it is mistaken for either of these.

The treatment for schizophrenia often employs antipsychotics and antidepressants in tandem with schizoaffective disorder treatment. Neither condition can be treated without therapy.

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What is the prognosis for schizophrenia?

In general, people with schizophrenia have better prospects than those with most other psychotic disorders. The best way to treat schizoaffective disorder is through long-term therapy. The majority of people with schizophrenia live fulfilling lives after treatment.

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