Schizoaffective Disorder: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Diagnosis

Schizoaffective disorder is actually a chronic mental health condition that is primarily characterized by symptoms of schizophrenia, like hallucinations or delusions, and symptoms of a mood disorder, like mania and depression.

If you or any of your known ones are suffering from this kind of disorder and want to know more about it, then do read the post.

Schizoaffective Disorder

Schizoaffective Disorder: An Introduction

Schizoaffective disorder generally describes a condition that includes aspects of both, a mood disorder like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Many individuals with schizoaffective disorder are often diagnosed incorrectly at first with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, as it shares symptoms of multiple mental health conditions.

Though scientists are not entirely certain if schizoaffective disorder is a condition that is related to schizophrenia or bipolar disorder; however, it is generally viewed and treated as a hybrid of both the conditions. It must be informed that this kind of disorder can be managed effectively; however, most people diagnosed with the condition have relapses.

It must be mentioned that such a disorder is seen in about 0.3% of the total population. Men and women experience schizoaffective disorder at an equal rate; however, men often develop the illness at an earlier age as compared to women. Schizoaffective disorder generally begins in the late teen years or in early adulthood, often between ages 16 years to 30 years. It is rare in case of children.

Symptoms of Schizoaffective Disorder:

The symptoms of schizoaffective disorder may greatly vary from one person to another, and may be mild or severe. Some of the symptoms include the following.

Symptoms of Schizoaffective Disorder Similar To Depression:

  • Poor appetite.
  • Weight gain or weight loss.
  • Changes in sleeping pattern; such as sleeping more or sleeping very less than usual.
  • Lack of energy.
  • Agitation or being very much restless.
  • Loss of interest in normal and usual activities of daily life.
  • Guilt and self-blame.
  • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness.
  • Difficulty in thinking or concentrating.
  • Suicidal thoughts or thoughts of death.

Symptoms Similar To Mania:

  • Being more active than normal; including at work, sexually or in social life.
  • Talking more and talking rapidly.
  • Racing thoughts.
  • Little need of sleep.
  • Being full of yourself.
  • Getting distracted easily.
  • Agitation or feeling restless.
  • Self-destructive or dangerous behavior; such as recklessly driving, having risky sex etc.

Symptoms of Schizoaffective Disorder Similar To Schizophrenia:

  • Delusions or strange beliefs that the person refuses to give up; even if they get the facts.
  • Hallucinations or sensing things that aren’t real; like hearing some voices.
  • Odd or unusual behavior.
  • Disorganized thinking.
  • Lack of emotion in facial expression and also in speech.
  • Slow movements or not moving at all.
  • Difficulty with speech and communication.
  • Poor motivation.

Causes of Schizoaffective Disorder:

Though the exact cause of schizoaffective disorder is not known, a combination of causes may contribute to the development of this disorder.

Genetics As A Cause:

Schizoaffective disorder generally tends to run in families. This does not mean that if any of your relative has an illness, you will definitely get it. But it does mean that there is a greater chance of you developing the illness. So, genetics can be a cause for getting this disorder.

Brain Chemistry And Structure:

Brain function, chemistry and its structure may also be one of the causes for developing schizoaffective disorder. Brain scans are helping to advance research in this particular area.

Drug Use As A Cause:

Psychoactive drugs like LSD have been associated with the development of schizoaffective disorder. So, this can also be one of the causes for developing the disorder.

Stress As A Cause For Schizoaffective Disorder:

Stress is also regarded to be one of the causes for schizoaffective disorder. Stressful events like a death in the family, divorce or loss of job, failure in studies etc. can trigger the symptoms or an onset of schizoaffective disorder.

Diagnosis of Schizoaffective Disorder:

There are no lab tests to diagnose specifically schizoaffective disorder. So, doctors generally rely on a person’s medical history and may also use several tests like brain imaging (MRI scans) and blood tests so as to make sure that a physical illness is not the reason for the symptoms.

In case no physical cause is found, the doctor may refer the individual to a psychiatrist or psychologist. These mental health experts are trained well to diagnose and treat mental illnesses and disorders. They make use of specifically designed interview and assessment tools for evaluating the affected person for a psychotic disorder.

In order to diagnose a person with schizoaffective disorder, the person must have periods of uninterrupted illness and at some point, must also have an episode of mania, major depression, or a mix of both; while also having some symptoms of schizophrenia. The affected individual must also have had a period of at least two weeks of psychotic symptoms without bipolar or depression symptoms.

Treatments of Schizoaffective Disorder:

Medication As A Treatment For Schizoaffective Disorder:

Some of the medications a person requires depend on whether they have depression or bipolar disorder, along with schizophrenia. The main medicines that doctors prescribe for psychotic symptoms like delusions, hallucinations and disorganized thinking etc. are the antipsychotics. All antipsychotic drugs likely have value in treating schizoaffective disorder; however, paliperidone extended release (Invega) is the only drug that the FDA has approved for treating schizoaffective disorder. For treating or managing mood-related symptoms, someone may take an antidepressant medication or a mood stabilizer like Lithium. They often will also require taking an antipsychotic medication.

Psychotherapy As A Treatment Method For Schizoaffective Disorder:

The goal of psychotherapy is to help the affected person learn about the illness, set goals, and manage everyday problems linked to the disorder. Family therapy can help families become more effective in relating to and helping a loved one who suffers from schizoaffective disorder.

Skills Training As a Treatment For Schizoaffective Disorder:

Skills training normally focus on work and social skills, grooming and self-care, and several other day-to-day activities, including money as well as home management.

Conclusion:

We are now known to some of the causes, symptoms and treatment methods of Schizoaffective disorder. In case you or any of your loved ones is suffering from symptoms similar to the condition, kindly do consult with your doctor and take the best treatments.

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