Schizoaffective Disorder

  • Medical Author:
    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Quick GuideSchizophrenia: Symptoms, Types, Causes, Treatment

Schizophrenia: Symptoms, Types, Causes, Treatment

What are the different types of schizoaffective disorder?

There are two types of schizoaffective disorder: bipolar type and depressive type. The bipolar type of schizoaffective disorder is characterized by at least one manic episode. The depressive type of this illness involves having only major depressive episodes as the mood disorder part of the illness.

What are causes and risk factors for schizoaffective disorder?

As with the vast majority of mental disorders, there is not thought to be a specific cause for schizoaffective disorder. Two-thirds of people who develop the illness are women. An immediate family history of any mental illness, especially schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia is a risk factor for schizoaffective disorder. Children born prematurely who were also small for their stage of development (gestational age) are also at risk for developing schizoaffective disorder, depression, or bipolar disorder. Developing schizoaffective disorder or another psychotic illness is more than twice as likely in children who suffer significant adversity like bullying, abuse, neglect, or parental death, especially by suicide, during that time of their lives.

What are symptoms and signs of schizoaffective disorder?

The symptoms and signs of schizoaffective disorder include those of schizophrenia combined with major depressive disorder and/or a manic episode. Symptoms of schizophrenia may include the following:

  • Hallucinations, like hearing voices, seeing, feeling, tasting, or smelling things that are not there
  • Delusions are ways of thinking with no basis in reality. Types of delusions include paranoid/persecutory, religious, erotic, grandiose (for example, false beliefs of superiority), jealous, body (somatic), or mixed (more than one) types and often involve the sufferer believing that an ordinary event has special and personal meaning (for example, the person with this symptom may believe that people on television are specifically talking to him or her directly)
  • Disorganized speech
  • Severely disorganized or catatonic behaviors, like rigid muscles, not speaking (mutism), purposeless moving, repeating what is said by others (echolalia) or adopting unusual body postures
  • Negative symptoms, like the decrease or absence of speech (alogia), a limited range of emotional, or movement

Symptoms of a major depressive episode might include the following:

  • Depressed or irritable mood most of every day for two weeks or more in a row
  • Inability to feel pleasure
  • Appetite changes
  • Significant weight loss in the absence of healthy dieting
  • Significant weight gain
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Restlessness or moving less (psychomotor agitation or retardation, respectively)
  • Low energy most days
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Social isolation
  • Hopelessness
  • Thoughts of death, thoughts, plans or attempts at self-harm or suicide

Symptoms of a manic episode may be characterized by the following:

  • Excessive self-esteem or grandiosity
  • Expansive mood/euphoria (for example, feeling excessively happy or silly)
  • Racing thoughts
  • Rapid, frenzied/pressured speaking that may be off topic (tangential)
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Sudden increases in energy
  • Impulsivity
  • Increase in goal-oriented activities
  • Engaging in activities that may cause problems (for example, excessive spending or sexual activity)

Similar to schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder is associated with impairments in memory, changing attention, thinking abstractly, and planning. However, people with schizoaffective disorder tend to have better cognitive functioning versus people with schizophrenia. In terms of brain structure, individuals with schizoaffective disorder tend to have smaller brain volumes compared to the general population, particularly in certain areas of the brain.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/20/2017

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