Schizoaffective disorder is a mental health condition that has symptoms of a mood disorder and psychosis. It is a disorder that has some symptoms similar to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, but is considered a separate disorder.
It is not clear what causes schizoaffective disorder. Some factors that may play a role in schizoaffective disorder include:
- Imbalance of chemicals in the brain such as serotonin and dopamine
- Changes in certain areas of the brain, such as those that affect emotion and cognition
These changes in the brain and chemicals may be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
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Schizoaffective disorder is more common in women than men.
A family history of mental illness may also increase the risk of schizoaffective disorder.
Symptoms may vary depending on age or gender. For example:
- Males are more likely to develop symptoms which first appear during teen years or early twenties
- Women are more likely to develop symptoms in their twenties
- Younger people tend to have manic symptoms
- Older people tend to have depressive symptoms
Depressive symptoms can include:
- Depressed mood
- Loss of interest in usual activities
- Poor appetite
- Difficulty focusing
- Difficulty sleeping, including insomnia
- Weight loss
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Suicidal or other morbid thoughts
Manic symptoms may include:
- Rapid or racing thoughts
- Increased activity and talking
- Being easily distracted
- Not needing sleep
- Inflated self-esteem or lofty ideas
- Self-harming behaviors
Psychotic symptoms may include:
- Disorganized speech, thinking, and behavior
- Total calmness
- Lack of facial expression, speech, or motivation
These symptoms can also lead to difficulty carrying out basic self care and hygiene tasks, cause problems creating or keeping personal relationships, and holding a job.
A diagnosis is made according to the health history and symptoms that you and those around you report to the doctor. Certain features and symptoms will help your doctor identify schizoaffective disorder from other similar conditions such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
You may be referred to a specialist for diagnosis.
Treatment for schizoaffective disorder is focused on managing symptoms and preventing symptoms from becoming worse. Most treatments include a combination of medication, counseling, and lifestyle changes.
Consistent contact with your healthcare team is important to keep treatment on track, address exacerbation, and improve quality of life.
Medicine may help to manage symptoms. The exact type of medicine will depend on your symptoms but may include one or more of the following types of medication:
- Antipsychotic medications—to address symptoms of psychosis
- Mood stabilizers
Medicine needs may change. Regular contact with your medical team can help identify when these changes may be needed.
There are a variety of counseling options to help manage symptoms and the effects of this disorder. Some therapy options include:
- Psychotherapy such as cognitive-behavioral therapy—to learn about the illness, manage problems, and create goals
- Social skills training
- Support groups
- Family counseling—to help family members understand challenges and how to best provide support
Lifestyle changes can help cope with the challenges of a mental condition and decrease worsening of symptoms. Lifestyle changes may include:
- Striving for a regular daily routine
- Aiming for a healthy diet and regular physical activity
- Identifying stressors and trying to avoid them
- Keeping your home environment calm and relaxed
- Avoiding alcohol and illegal drug use. Talk to your doctor if you are currently using drugs or drinking alcohol regularly and have trouble controlling your habits
There are no current guidelines to prevent schizoaffective disorder because the cause is not known.
National Institute of Mental Health
National Mental Health Association
Canadian Mental Health Association
Canadian Psychiatric Association
Beddoe AE, Pravikoff D. Schizoaffective disorder. EBSCO Nursing Reference Center website. Available at:http://www.ebscohost.com/nursing/products/nursing-reference-center. Updated January 10, 2014. Accessed October 4, 2017.
Schizoaffective disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115778/Schizoaffective-disorder. Updated June 25, 2015. Accessed October 4, 2017.
Schizoaffective disorder. National Alliance on Mental Illness website. Available at: https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Schizoaffective-Disorder. Accessed October 4, 2017.
Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD Last Updated: 7/10/2020