Schizoaffective disorder is a type of chronic mental health condition that combines aspects of two mental health disorders into one: if you have schizoaffective disorder, you will show symptoms of both schizophrenia and a mood disorder, like mania or depression, at the same time. About one in every 200 people is affected by this disorder at some point in their lives. 

If you’re experiencing symptoms of schizoaffective disorder, you should contact your doctor immediately. This disorder can be very dangerous and lead to risky and dangerous behavior. However, with proper treatment and support, you can keep schizoaffective disorder under control and minimize its impact on your life. 

Symptoms

Every person experiences schizoaffective disorder differently, but some common symptoms do occur. If you or a loved one are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should contact a doctor. There are tests and scans that your doctor can perform to determine the best treatment path for you. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Hallucinations, including hearing or seeing things or people that aren’t there
  • Extreme paranoia and suspicion, including obsessive defensive behaviors, like covering the windows to prevent spies from watching you
  • Suicidal thoughts and plans - call 911 immediately
  • Thoughts, talk, or plans of hurting other people, including children or loved ones - call 911 immediately
  • Delusions or a firm adherence to believing in things that aren't true or possible, like aliens are speaking to you
  • Disorganized and rapid speech that wanders off topic quickly
  • An inability to distinguish fantasy from reality
  • Sudden changes in mood or rapid switches between being extremely happy and extremely sad
  • Sadness, hopelessness, social isolation
  • Changes in appetite, sleep, or grooming habits
  • Thinking that someone is trying to send you special messages in some way, like through the television
  • Engaging in unnaturally risky behavior including alcohol and drug misuse

Causes

Schizoaffective disorder isn’t caused by any one event or gene, but there are several potential risk factors that can make you more likely to develop it, including:

  • Trauma, especially in childhood
  • An imbalance in brain chemicals
  • A traumatic brain injury
  • A family history of schizoid disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, or anxiety
  • Malnutrition before birth
  • Exposure to viruses before birth
  • Birth or pregnancy complications
  • Alcohol and drug misuse

Treatment

Schizoaffective disorder is a serious condition, but there are treatments available to help control your symptoms. Talk to your doctor about designing the right treatment plan for you, which may include a combination of medication, therapy, and support.

Medication: Medications including antipsychotics, antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and other drugs can help control your symptoms. Speak with a medical professional to learn more.

Therapy: Talk therapy can help you learn to identify your triggers. In severe cases, an inpatient hospital stay may be needed. Group therapy, occupational therapy, and family therapy can also help. See more about your therapy options at Sheppard Pratt. 

Education: Knowing more about your disorder can help you explain it to your family and friends. Educate the people around you about your condition so they can be a part of your team. Learn more about mental health conditions, treatments, and therapies through our Psych-lopedia.

Support: Support is essential as you make your journey toward healing. Sheppard Pratt has many types of support groups available. Find your group now.