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Schizoaffective disorder symptoms are complex because this particular mental illness is comprised of two separate conditions. In order to be diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder symptoms, an individual must have schizophrenia and must be assessed as having a mood disturbance. Individuals suffering from schizoaffective disorder might have such common symptoms of schizophrenia as hallucinations and, at the same time, exhibit the symptoms of a mood disorder such as mania or depression — or both, as is the case with bipolarity.
When a person has schizophrenia, the way he or she perceives reality, expresses emotions or thinks and acts are all distorted. An individual with schizoaffective disorder symptoms might suffer from hallucinations such as hearing voices or seeing or smelling things that just aren’t there. Delusions and paranoia are common symptoms of this disorder and involve beliefs, such as being the victim of thought control, that a person who has schizophrenia will refuse to give up, even when presented with compelling evidence to the contrary. Disorganized thinking usually will be present as a symptom. A person might jump from one unrelated topic or idea to another so that it is hard to follow what is being said.
The symptoms of bipolar disorder, mania or depression are also present in this type of disorder. In addition to signs of schizophrenia, an individual might have symptoms of major depression. These commonly include a loss of interest in life as well as feelings of deep hopelessness, sadness or worthlessness. Symptoms of mania in schizoaffective disorder might show themselves in greatly increased activity, rapid talking, racing thoughts, sleeplessness and an exaggerated sense of self-esteem. Bipolar symptoms will include signs of both depression and mania as the individual cycles between the two extremes.
Schizoaffective disorder symptoms can vary greatly. It is a mixture of several mental illnesses, so it runs a unique course in every affected individual. Elements of a mood disorder might happen at the same time as symptoms of schizophrenia or, conversely, they might appear off and on. Usually, schizoaffective disorder symptoms follow a course of cycles from a period of an improved outlook followed by a period of severe symptoms.
The precise cause of schizoaffective disorder is not understood, but researchers believe that it results from a combination of factors involving the environment, genetics and brain chemistry. A person suspected of having this disorder should be seen by a doctor for an accurate diagnosis to be made. Successful treatment combining medication, counseling and skills training is possible.