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What is Schizoaffective Disorder?

By D. Jeffress
Updated May 17, 2024
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Schizoaffective disorder is a psychological illness in which an individual experiences episodes of schizophrenia and intense mood swings. A person with the disorder might suffer from paranoia, hallucinations, and delusions in combination with extreme mood changes and often severe depression. There are several treatment options available to persons with schizoaffective disorder, including psychotherapy and prescription antipsychotic and antidepressant drugs.

Most people with schizoaffective disorder begin showing symptoms in their late teens and early twenties, though the onset can be earlier or later in certain cases. Afflicted individuals might experience symptoms of schizophrenia, including hallucinations, delusions, and unwarranted feelings of paranoia. They often have difficulty concentrating on tasks, experience mental confusion and irrational thoughts, and speak incoherently.

The signs of schizophrenia are usually accompanied by symptoms of affective mood disorder, such as extended periods of depression or manic episodes. Individuals with depression might have trouble eating and sleeping, feel excessively tired and sad most of the time, and experience thoughts of suicide. Many people go to great lengths to isolate themselves from friends, family, and coworkers. During manic spells, people may experience unusually high levels of energy and excitement. Afflicted individuals are often highly irritable and exhibit unpredictable behaviors when in a manic state.

A person who believes he or she may have schizoaffective disorder should consult a medical doctor or psychologist immediately so that a proper diagnosis can be made and a treatment plan can be devised. The disorder is known to have genetic links, so a doctor or mental health professional usually conducts an extensive interview with a patient to learn about his or her family's medical history. Additionally, the doctor will ask the patient to describe his or her symptoms and explain any medical or social complications that have resulted from them. After conducting an interview and performing a physical examination, the doctor can make an accurate diagnosis.

When schizoaffective disorder is found to be the cause of symptoms, a patients is generally referred to a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist to obtain the appropriate treatment. Many individuals are prescribed mood stabilizers, antipsychotic drugs, and antidepressants to relieve symptoms and allow them to go about their daily lives. In many cases, psychotherapy and behavioral modification techniques are successful in teaching patients about their disorders and providing strategies to better manage psychotic episodes and mood swings. With appropriate medical attention and regular therapy sessions, many individuals with schizoaffective disorder are able to live normal, enjoyable lives.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By SilentBlue — On Jan 30, 2011

Schizoaffective disorder can manifest as a later form of bipolar disorder. If bipolar is left untreated, it can progress to psychoses and have a terrible effect on a person and on the people they relate to. Often, these effects can be dealt with, but if they are neglected they can become traumatic and long-term.

By GigaGold — On Jan 29, 2011


There is also the issue of tryptophan levels, which is tied to serotonin. Inadequate tryptophan levels, or imbalanced transmission of tryptophan, can lead to negative thoughts and constant fear or compulsion. It can also cause people to feel happy at inappropriate times.

By JavaGhoul — On Jan 26, 2011

Zoloft can be a helpful medication for catching this disorder before it gets serious. It increases the transmission of serotonin, which is a chemical tied to happiness and well-being. People with low serotonin levels can often find themselves feeling like they need to engage in OCD behaviors which affect every aspect of their minds. There are also often voices they can hear or strong depression. Increasing their mental capacity for happiness and positivity is an important step in eliminating this issue.

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