Signs & Symptoms of Schizoaffective Disorder

Understanding Schizoaffective Disorder

Learn About Schizoaffective Disorder

Schizoaffective disorder is a mental health illness in which an individual experiences a combination of schizophrenia symptoms and mood disorder symptoms. People with schizoaffective disorder may experience symptoms that can be severe enough to disrupt daily life including that ability to maintain a job, keep fulfilling relationships, or function on a daily basis at school. Schizoaffective disorder is characterized by sporadic relapses in which symptoms appear and cause problems within an individual’s life.

Currently schizoaffective disorder is not very well-understood, due in large part because the combination of schizophrenia symptoms plus bipolar or depressive features present quite differently in each person with the disorder. Treatment for schizoaffective disorder usually involves treating both the symptoms of schizophrenia and the symptoms of depression or bipolar disorder concurrently. There are two subtypes of schizoaffective disorder: schizoaffective disorder, bipolar-type, in which a person experiences episodes of mania and sometimes symptoms of depression may be present in addition to symptoms of schizophrenia. Schizoaffective disorder, depressive type, occurs if symptoms of major depressive disorder are evident alongside symptoms of schizophrenia. There is currently no cure for schizoaffective disorder; however, with proper medication and therapy individuals with this disorder are able to lead happy, productive lives.

Statistics

Psychosis Statistics

Schizoaffective disorder is about one-third as common as schizophrenia. The lifetime prevalence for schizoaffective disorder is between about 0.5% to 0.8%. The incidence rate of schizoaffective disorder appears to be higher in women, who generally experience the depressive-type of the disorder.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and Risk Factors for Schizoaffective Disorder

Schizoaffective disorder is not the result of a single factor, but instead is a complex combination of genetic, physical, and environmental risk factors working together. The most commonly accepted causes and risk factors for schizoaffective disorder include:

Genetic: Much like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or depression, schizoaffective disorder is thought to have a genetic component. People who have a first-degree relative with the disorder are more likely than others to develop schizoaffective disorder.

Physical: Neuroimaging studies such as CT scans, MRIs, and PET scans have shown that people with schizoaffective disorder have structural changes in the brain. Additionally, imbalances of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, which are responsible for mood regulation, may contribute to the symptoms of the disorder.

Environmental: Prenatal exposure to certain viruses or toxins are thought to play some sort of role in the development of schizoaffective disorder. In addition, trauma during childbirth may increase the likelihood of development for this disorder.

Risk Factors:

  • Prenatal drug or alcohol use
  • Advanced paternal age
  • Presence of other mental health disorders
  • Substance abuse or alcoholism
  • Stressful life circumstances

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Schizoaffective

The symptoms of schizoaffective disorder vary greatly from person to person, which can make the diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder very challenging for clinicians. Symptoms of schizoaffective disorder are based upon individual genetic makeup, co-occurring disorders, presence of manic or depressive episodes, as well as past or present substance abuse. The most common symptoms of schizoaffective disorder include:

Schizophrenia Symptoms:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Disorganized thinking
  • Odd, unusual behavior
  • Slow movements or total immobility
  • Lack of emotion in speech and facial expressions
  • Poor motivation
  • Challenges with speech and motivation

Depressive Symptoms:

  • Change in eating patterns
  • Loss of interest in once-enjoyed activities
  • Feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Self-blame
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Changes in sleeping pattern
  • Extreme restlessness and agitation
  • Lack of energy
  • Inability to concentrate or think clearly
  • Self-harming behaviors
  • Recurrent thoughts of suicide or death
  • Suicidal behaviors

Mania Symptoms:

  • Little need for sleep
  • Agitation
  • Inflated sense of self-esteem
  • High levels of distractibility
  • Increased activity in work, school, or sexual activity
  • Increased, rapid thoughts
  • Racing speech
  • Rapid, racing thoughts
  • Increased self-destructive or risk-taking behaviors

Effects

Effects of Schizoaffective Disorder

The effects of untreated, misdiagnosed schizoaffective disorder can damage every aspect of an individual’s life. These effects will vary based upon the type of schizoaffective disorder as well as individual makeup, presence of co-occurring disorders, and substance abuse. Symptoms may include:

  • Increased social isolation and loss of important relationships
  • Job loss and unemployment
  • Anxiety
  • Financial insecurity
  • Development of alcohol or substance abuse
  • Major health-related problems
  • Difficulty adhering to a treatment regime, including medication management
  • Aftereffects of reckless, manic behaviors
  • Self-harming behaviors
  • Early death
  • Suicidal ideation and behaviors

Co-Occurring Disorders

Schizoaffective Disorder and other Co-Occurring Disorders

Schizoaffective disorder often occurs with a number of additional disorders. The most frequently co-occurring mental illnesses include:

  • Substance abuse and addiction
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression