Schizoaffective Disorder – Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

Is your best friend getting moody and suffering from hallucinations for the last couple of weeks? He or she may be a victim of Schizoaffective Disorder, a very complicated medical condition.

What is Schizoaffective Disorder?

Simply put, it is a mental disease characterized by the symptoms of Schizophrenia and an affective disorder which can be either bipolar disorder or severe depression. It is a combination of these two complex medical syndromes. In the US alone, it affects approximately 24 million people every year.

The average person may find it difficult to distinguish the Schizoaffective Disorder from Schizophrenia and affective disorders. Many people have little knowledge about the complexities of these disorders. However, if you have a family member or a relative suffering from any of these two diseases, you may already be having a fair idea. Even if you do not, take a quick look.


It is a much dreaded psychological ailment. It is actually a brain disorder that causes a person to see imaginary things and hear imaginary voices. They also suffer from suspicion and doubt that everyone around is trying to cause harm to them. The patient’s thoughts and speech become disorganized. His memory and attention span is affected.

This has no connection with split-personality disorder, as many people often wrongly believe.

Affective Disorder

This serious mental disease affects the mood of a person. It can take the form of schizoaffective bipolar disorder or major depression.

Bipolar Disorder

It is a very common psychological disease. It affects over 17 million adults only in the US every year. Like Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder impacts the brain functions. A person suffering from it goes through severe mood swings that last for quiet sometime. It is very different from temporary feelings of happiness and sadness experienced by normal people. In bipolar disorder, the patient goes through an ‘up’ phase known as mania and a ‘down’ phase famously known as ‘depression’. High energy, inflated feeling of self-importance, reckless and aggressive behavior are some of the symptoms displayed during mania. Depression is marked by loss of energy, low concentration, abnormal sleep and eating patterns.

Major Depression

It is also known by the name ‘Major Depressive Disorder’ or ‘Unipolar Disorder’. It is a mental illness characterized by a constant ‘down’ phase in the sufferer. The patient’s mood hits an all-time low and he fails to come out of it. It is marked by low self-esteem, hallucinations, hopelessness, suicidal thoughts, body pains and disturbed eating and sleeping patterns. It is a common disorder affecting many men and women in the world. It affects a large percentage of the population in the US.

Schizoaffective Disorder Symptoms

The symptoms of Schizoaffective Disorder closely resemble the characteristics of schizophrenia and affective mood disorder. The symptoms vary in sufferers. However, the typical symptoms associated with the disease are:

Seeing or Hearing Things

The display of this symptom makes Schizoaffective Disorder very similar to Schizophrenia. Much like schizophrenic patients, schizoaffective persons tend to hear imaginary voices or see unreal things.


Patients begin to have strange thoughts and perceptions. Most of these are unreal and based on imagination. Their dear ones find them holding on to unusual beliefs.

Disorganized Thought Process

Sufferers lack the power to think logically. Their thoughts become confused or disordered.

Irregular Sleep Patterns

The person has difficulty to go to sleep. He may even remain asleep for extended periods of time.

Manic Mood

The person may suffer from exceptionally high energy and show abnormal behavior.

Suicidal Tendencies

Such patients often lose the inclination to live and begin to harbor suicidal thoughts.

Concentration Problems

Patients may have problems focusing on a particular work. This lack of concentration can make it difficult for the person to hold on to his or her job.

Scoring Over Others

People with this syndrome try to suppress the voices of those around them. Schizoaffective sufferers often talk very quickly so that others cannot interrupt them.

Mood Swings

It is very difficult to predict the mood of a schizoaffective sufferer. The person may have a good mood which can suddenly turn bad. He or she may suffer from sadness and utter hopelessness at these times.

Schizoaffective Disorder Causes

A number of factors are held responsible for the development of this disease. Know about some of the causes of Schizoaffective disorder.


The role of genetics has not been ascertained yet in the prevalence of this ailment. However, people with one or more family members suffering from the syndrome stand at a higher risk of developing it.

Personality Disorders

People suffering from double or multiple personality disorders often go on to suffer from this disease.


Stress alone is the cause for a number of psychological ailments. Great stress makes life difficult for a lot of people, especially those who lack effective adult psychological mechanisms. This puts the individual under great psychological pressure and sows the seeds for Schizoaffective Disorder in the brain.

Who can get Schizoaffective Disorder?

Anyone can suffer from this psychological disease. Both male and female are at risk from this disease. However, men are found to be more susceptible to the ailment. The disease normally attacks people in the late stages of their adolescence or early stages of their adulthood. That is why you can see a lot of young people suffering from this disorder.

Difference between Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective Disorder

Schizoaffective Disorder is often mistaken for Schizophrenia. Outwardly, it looks very similar to Schizophrenia. However, this is a completely different syndrome that requires a different treatment. The main difference between Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective disorder lies in the fact that the former does not involve mood swings. In Schizoaffective disorder, the mood of a person changes a lot. The patient goes through happy and sad phases. Schizophrenic patients show almost all schizoaffective symptoms except the characteristics of mood disorder.

Schizoaffective Disorder Prognosis

Prognosis is generally favorable for people suffering from this disorder. Mood disorder sufferers have a better prognosis than schizoaffective patients. However, schizoaffective sufferers show a more favorable prognosis than schizophrenic patients.

Schizoaffective Disorder Diagnosis

The diagnosis is generally done by the expert observation of a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist. The patient is closely observed for a few weeks to detect if there are mood disturbances as well as other symptoms of Schizoaffective Disorder. It is checked whether the patient is suffering from mood disturbances for at least two weeks. Presence of mood disturbances as well as schizophrenic symptoms plays a very important role in correct diagnosis of Schizoaffective Disorder.

Other factors like alcohol and drugs are also taken into consideration to make sure that the symptoms are not caused by these substances. The complete medical history and physical examination aids the diagnosis. Biological examinations like blood tests and X-rays are carried out to rule out the presence of other diseases. The patient has to go through highly structured interviews and fill questionnaires for mood assessment test. All these help psychologists to avoid wrong diagnosis.

Schizoaffective Disorder Treatment

Treatment for Schizoaffective Disorder usually consists of medications and psychotherapy.


The psychological symptoms like delusion or hallucination are generally treated with antipsychotic drugs. The mood disturbances of the sufferer are treated with antidepressants. Lithium is also used to stabilize the mood.


Schizoaffective syndromes are generally treated by expert psychologists. In many cases, family members also have to undergo therapies to know about the problems of the sufferer and be able to handle them properly.

Skills Training

The patient is groomed in a way that their ailment does not come in the way of their progress. Sufferers are taught how to care for their health, interact with people and carry out their daily activities.

Famous people with Schizoaffective Disorder

The disease has struck quite a few celebrities and well-known personalities. This includes

Picture 1 – Mary Todd Lincoln
Source – blogspot

Mary Todd Lincoln – She was the wife of late US President Abraham Lincoln.

Brian Wilson – He is the acclaimed Jazz musician of the famous ‘60s Rock and Roll band ‘Beach Boys’.

Meera Popkin – She was a famous Broadway star and was admired by many people.

If you know someone showing Schizoaffective Disorder symptoms, you should immediately take that person to a psychiatrist. It is not easy to prevent this disease. However, early diagnosis can check the symptoms in the initial stages itself. A delay in treatment can worsen the symptoms. In worse cases, the patient may show aggressive behavior and require immediate hospitalization. Sometimes patients may even commit suicide. So you need to act as early as possible to avoid all future problems. An early diagnosis can save the life of the patient as well as his family and relationships.


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  1. Pingback: Schizoaffective Disorder – Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment : Schizophrenia Page November 12, 2010

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