What is schizoaffective disorder?

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Schizoaffective disorder: What is it?

  • It is a mental disorder characterized by a combination of schizophrenia symptoms (hallucinations/delusions) and mood disorder symptoms (depression or mania)


Types of Schizoaffective disorder:

  • Bipolar type– episodes of mania and sometimes major depression
  • Depressive type– only major depressive episodes


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  • can vary from person to person
  • impaired communication (i.e. only partially answering questions)
  • impaired occupational, academic and social functioning
  • problems managing personal care, including cleanliness and physical appearance
  • psychotic symptoms (hallucinations and/or delusions)
    • delusions- having false, fixed beliefs, despite evidence otherwise
    • hallucinations- hearing voices or seeing things that aren’t there
  • mood disorder symptoms (mania and/or depression)
    • depression- feeling empty, sad, or worthless
    • mania- sudden increase in energy with behavior that is out of character
  • usually features cycles of severe symptoms followed by periods of improvement with less severe symptoms



  • The cause is not known. A combination of factors may be to blame, such as genetics and variations in brain chemistry and structure.


Risk Factors:

  • Having a close blood relative with schizoaffective disorder, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder
  • stressful events that trigger symptoms
  • taking mind-altering (psychoactive or psychotropic) drugs


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  • Untreated, this disorder can lead to problems functioning at work, school and in social situations (i.e. holding a job).
  • May require assistance with daily functioning
  • Treatment can manage symptoms and improve quality of life
  • Increased risk of:
    • suicide, suicide attempts, or suicidal thoughts
    • social isolation
    • family/interpersonal conflicts
    • unemployment
    • anxiety disorders
    • alcohol/substance abuse problems
    • significant health problems
    • poverty and homelessness


  • The diagnosis involves ruling out other mental health disorders and symptoms due to substance abuse, medication or another medical condition.
  • May include:
    • physical exam
    • tests and screenings (i.e. screening for alcohol and drugs)
    • psychiatric evaluation


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  • Combination of medications, psychotherapy and life skills training
    • Medications:
      • Antipsychotics: to help manage psychotic symptoms
      • Mood-stabilizing meds: to help with bipolar type (level out manic highs and depressive lows)
      • Antidepressants- help with depressive type (feelings of sadness/hopelessness, difficulty with sleep, and concentration)
    • Psychotherapy:
      • Individual therapy: may help normalize thought patterns and reduce symptoms; can help to better understand condition and manage symptoms; focuses on plans, problems and relationships
      • Family/group therapy: discussing problems with others; decreases social isolation and provides reality check during psychosis
    • Life Skills Training:
      • Social skills training: improves communication and social interactions, the ability to participate in daily activities. Includes the practice of new skills and behaviors specific to settings i.e. home, workplace.
      • Vocational rehabilitation and supported employment: focuses on helpiung people prepare for and find/keep jobs.
  • varies depending on type and severity of symptoms
  • hospitalization may be required (to ensure safety, proper nutrition, adequete sleep, and basic personal care/cleanliness)
  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT):
    • for adults with the disorder who do not respond to psychotherapy or medications, ECT may be considered


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