What Is Schizoaffective Disorder

According to The Mayo Clinic, schizoaffective disorder is a serious mental condition, whereby the patient experiences symptoms of schizophrenia and of other mood disorders. This could, for example, include hallucinations and delusions, as well as depression and mania. Learn more about schizoaffective disorder with the following key facts.

Symptoms

The Mayo Clinic advises that the symptoms of schizoaffective disorder can vary considerably from one person to the next. Although all patients suffer symptoms associated with both schizophrenia and a mood disorder, some may suffer from the symptoms interchangeably, while others suffer from them at the same time. Patients with a mood disorder must also suffer from a period of schizophrenic symptoms for a period of at least two weeks, even if the mood disorder symptoms are under control. Patients with schizoaffective disorder commonly suffer from suicidal thoughts so it is important to seek the advice of a doctor as soon as possible if symptoms are experienced.

Causes

There appears to be a genetic link between patients that suffer from the condition, rather like schizophrenia. Scientists are unsure what causes the condition, but an imbalance of chemicals in the brain such as serotonin and dopamine may be the cause. These chemicals help regulate the mood, which may explain why sufferers experience severe mood swings. The Mayo Clinic also advises that toxins or viral illnesses in the womb may also be a root cause, along with birth complications.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis of the condition is based on criteria published in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which is published by the American Psychiatric Association. A doctor will normally carry out a lengthy interview with the patient and a mental health specialist is likely to be consulted too. Diagnosis can only be made where there is no link to the condition and the direct effects of a substance, such as a recreational drug or medication.

Treatment

Patients with schizoaffective disorder are likely to be treated with a combination of medication and counseling. The treatment will vary according to the severity and type of symptoms, and whether the disorder is of a depressive or bi-polar nature.

Medication types can include:

  • Antipsychotics. These are drugs to prevent psychotic symptoms such as paranoia and delusions.
  • Antidepressants. These drugs can help address the underlying feeling of sadness and hopelessness. They can also help the patient sleep.
  • Mood stabilizers. Mood stabilizers can help address patients with a bi-polar disorder.

Different types of therapy may be used.

  • Psychotherapy and counseling takes place on a one-to-one basis, and can help the patient focus on relationships and problems. The objective is to help the patient better cope with home and work life.
  • Family or group therapy may be used to prevent the patient feeling isolated and to give him or her a chance to share experiences with others.
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