• Schizoaffective Disorder

    Definition

    Schizoaffective disorder is a mental health condition that has symptoms of a mood disorder and psychosis. It is a disorder that has some symptoms similar to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, but is considered a separate disorder.

    Causes

    It is not clear what causes schizoaffective disorder. Some factors that may play a role in schizoaffective disorder include:
    • Imbalance of chemicals in the brain such as serotonin and dopamine
    • Changes in certain areas of the brain, such as those that affect emotion and cognition
    These changes in the brain and chemicals may be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
    The Brain
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    Risk Factors

    Schizoaffective disorder is more common in women than men.
    A family history of mental illness may also increase the risk of schizoaffective disorder.

    Symptoms

    Symptoms may vary depending on age or gender. For example:
    • Males are more likely to develop symptoms which first appear during teen years or early twenties
    • Women are more likely to develop symptoms in their twenties
    • Younger people tend to have manic symptoms
    • Older people tend to have depressive symptoms
    Symptoms also vary between people but may include a mix of symptoms of depression, mania, or psychosis.
    Depressive symptoms can include:
    • Depressed mood
    • Loss of interest in usual activities
    • Poor appetite
    • Difficulty focusing
    • Difficulty sleeping including insomnia
    • Agitation
    • Weight loss
    • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
    • Suicidal or other morbid thoughts
    Manic symptoms may include:
    • Rapid or racing thoughts
    • Increased activity and talking
    • Easily distracted
    • Agitation
    • Not needing sleep
    • Inflated self-esteem or lofty ideas
    • Self-harming behaviors
    Psychotic symptoms may include:
    • Delusions
    • Hallucinations
    • Disorganized speech, thinking, and behavior
    • Total calm
    • Lack of facial expression, speech, or motivation
    These symptoms can also lead to difficulty carrying out basic self-care and hygiene tasks, cause problems creating or keeping personal relationships, and holding a job.

    Diagnosis

    A diagnosis is made according to the health history and symptoms that you and those around you report to the doctor. Certain features and symptoms will help your doctor identify schizoaffective disorder from other similar conditions such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
    You may be referred to a specialist for diagnosis.

    Treatment

    Treatment for schizoaffective disorder is focused on managing symptoms and preventing a worsening of symptoms. Most treatments include a combination of medication, counseling, and lifestyle changes.
    Consistent contact with your healthcare team is important to keep treatment on track, address exacerbation, and improve quality of life.

    Medication

    Medication may help to manage symptoms. The exact type of medication will depend on your symptoms but may include one or more of the following types of medication:
    • Antipsychotic medications—to address symptoms of psychosis
    • Antidepressants
    • Mood stabilizers
    Medication needs may change. Regular contact with your medical team can help identify when these changes may be needed.

    Counseling

    There are a variety of counseling options to help manage symptoms and the effects of this disorder. Some therapy options include:
    • Psychotherapy such as cognitive-behavioral therapy—to learn about the illness, manage problems, and create goals
    • Social skill training
    • Support groups
    • Family counseling—to help family members understand challenges and how to best provide support

    Lifestyle Changes

    Lifestyle changes can help cope with challenges of a mental condition and decrease worsening of symptoms. Lifestyle changes may include:
    • Strive for regular daily routine.
    • Aim for a healthy diet and regular physical activity.
    • Identify stressors and try to avoid them.
    • Keep your home environment calm and relaxed.
    • Avoid alcohol and illegal drug use. Talk to your doctor if you are currently using drugs or drinking alcohol regularly and have trouble controlling your habits.

    Prevention

    There are no current guidelines to prevent schizoaffective disorder because the cause is not known.

    RESOURCES

    National Institute of Mental Health https://www.nimh.nih.gov

    National Mental Health Association http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net

    CANADIAN RESOURCES

    Canadian Mental Health Association https://cmha.ca

    Canadian Psychiatric Association http://www.cpa-apc.org

    References

    Beddoe AE, Pravikoff D. Schizoaffective disorder. EBSCO Nursing Reference Center website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/nursing/products/nursing-reference-center. Updated January 10, 2014. Accessed October 4, 2017.

    Schizoaffective disorder. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115778/Schizoaffective-disorder. Updated June 25, 2015. Accessed October 4, 2017.

    Schizoaffective disorder. National Alliance on Mental Illness website. Available at: https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Schizoaffective-Disorder. Accessed October 4, 2017.

    Revision Information

    • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD
    • Review Date: 09/2017
    • Update Date: 04/07/2015
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