Schizoaffective Disorder

PsychologyAbnormal Psychology

Our mood and behaviour which enables human beings to perceive the world around us and function in a socially acceptable manner. When there is a dysregulation in these processes, one is unable to perform day-to-day activities and further interrupts their relationship with self and others

What is Schizoaffective Disorder?

The prefix "schizo-" refers to the psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia that affect a person's thinking, sense of self, and perceptions, whereas the term "-effective" refers to extreme shifts in mood, energy, and behavior. These symptoms may occur simultaneously or at different times. Scientists have not confirmed whether schizoaffective disorder is a subset of schizophrenia or a mood disorder; rather, it is viewed and treated as a combination of both conditions. The disorder most resembles schizophrenia, and while the mood disorder may ebb and flow, elements of psychosis are always present in the patient

For this reason, combined with its extremely low prevalence rates (approx. 0.3%), people with schizoaffective disorder are likely to be misdiagnosed at first. For medical professionals to distinguish between schizoaffective disorders from schizophrenia & mood disorders, a long-term assessment of the patient's symptoms and their nature of progression is required. Of the cases identified, women are more likely to be affected than men, with its usual onset for both genders being 25-35 years

Signs and Symptoms

People with schizoaffective disorder may exhibit hallucinations, or false views of reality, such as hearing voices that no one else can hear or sensing images, scents, or tactile (touch) sensations as signs and symptoms of psychosis. Delusions—strongly held incorrect beliefs—are another distinguishing feature. For instance, those affected might be convinced that they are a specific historical figure or that someone is trying to harm them or is in control of them

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) outlines four basic components for diagnosing the schizoaffective disorder.

The observed period of illness must be uninterrupted during which there is a major mood episode (major depressive or mania) concurrent with criterion A of schizophrenia- disorganized speech, catatonic behavior, delusions, hallucinations, or negative symptoms.

  • Occurrence of either delusions or hallucinations for less than two weeks in the absence of a major mood episode is observed.

  • Symptoms that meet the criteria for a major mood episode are present for most of the active and residual portions of weakness.

  • Another important criterion to confirm this diagnosis is to ensure that the behavioral and mood disturbances are not attributable to the effects of any substance use or medical condition

Psychosis and mood-related issues linked to schizoaffective disease manifest themselves in early adulthood. People with this disease frequently struggle to perform in social, professional, and educational contexts. Other common symptoms include trouble with daily duties and personal cleanliness, distorted thinking and focus, inappropriate emotional reactions, unpredictable speech and conduct, and erratic speech and behavior. In comparison to the general population, those with schizoaffective illness are more likely to struggle with substance misuse issues and commit suicide

Causes of the Schizoaffective Disorder

Due to the significant overlap with these other mental health conditions, limited knowledge exists about the neurobiological influence of schizoaffective disorder. The inheritance pattern of schizoaffective disorder is largely unclear apart from one study, which shows that when a member of an identical twin pair has schizoaffective disorder, the co-twin will also develop the condition is about 40 percent. The risk is much lower than 100 percent, even in identical twins, which suggests that environmental factors are also important contributing factors to schizoaffective disorder. An example of such a factor is stress. Events such as a death of a loved one, the end of a marriage, or the loss of a job have the potential to trigger symptoms and the onset of the disorder. Additionally, psychoactive drugs such as LSD have also been highly linked to the development of the schizoaffective disorder

Types of Schizoaffective Disorders

Major types are:

Schizoaffective disorders can be categorized into two types: bipolar type & depressive type. Schizoaffective bipolar type disorder includes both psychotic and bipolar symptoms in one episode. Bipolar symptoms include tremendous "highs," known as manic episodes, and "lows," known as depressive episodes. Manic episodes are distinguished by increased energy and activity, irritation, restlessness, insomnia, and risky behavior. Low energy and activity, a sense of pessimism, and an inability to accomplish daily duties characterize depressive episodes. The schizoaffective depressive type only includes psychotic & depressive symptoms in one episode.

Treatment & Management Strategies

Because schizoaffective disorder often leads to long-term disability, people often require comprehensive treatment, including medication (antipsychotic drugs, mood stabilizers, or SSRIs), psychotherapy, and community support. The prescribed medications are usually life-long and targeted towards specific symptoms. If taken regularly, it will successfully prevent the occurrence of a schizoaffective episode. A study that reported the treatment regimens for schizoaffective showed that 93% of patients received an antipsychotic. 20% of patients received a mood stabilizer in addition to an antipsychotic, while 19% received an antidepressant along with an antipsychotic. Prior to initiating treatment, inpatient hospitalization should be strongly considered if a patient diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder is a danger to themselves or others. If left untreated, the schizoaffective disorder has many ramifications in both social functioning and activities of daily living, including unemployment, isolation, impaired ability to care for self, etc


Schizoaffective disorder, the epidemiology of which is still unclear, is a combination of psychotic and mood disorders. It affects both behavior and emotions and therefore creates an impact on professional & personal life. Even though a cure does not exist, with early intervention, treatment & support, a person diagnosed with the schizoaffective disorder would be able to live a semi-functioning life.

Updated on 13-Oct-2022 11:19:47