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.

Schizophrenia Slideshow Pictures

Quick GuideSchizophrenia Pictures Slideshow: Types, Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Schizophrenia Pictures Slideshow: Types, Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

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 schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia is a risk factor for schizoaffective 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 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 having the belief that an ordinary event has special and personal meaning
  • Disorganized speech
  • Severely disorganized or catatonic behaviors
  • 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 several days in a row
  • Inability to feel pleasure
  • Appetite changes
  • Significant weight loss in the absence of healthy dieting
  • 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
  • Racing thoughts
  • Rapid, frenzied/pressured speaking
  • 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 3/2/2016
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