The duration and severity of schizoaffective episodes may vary with people.
- To be called a schizoaffective episode, a person must have symptoms of psychosis (such as hallucinations or delusions) along with the symptoms of a mood disorder (such as depression or mania).
- Furthermore, there must be at least two episodes of psychotic symptoms, each lasting for at least two weeks. One of these episodes must occur in the absence of a major mood episode (depressive or manic symptoms).
What are schizoaffective episodes?
Schizoaffective disorders are mental health conditions that affect mood and thoughts.
- During a schizoaffective episode, the affected person has symptoms of both schizophrenia and a mood disorder.
- Schizophrenia is a psychiatric condition that presents with symptoms, such as hallucinations, delusions, disorganized speech, and disturbed emotional expression.
- Mood disorders are mental health conditions, primarily affecting a person’s emotional state, such as depression, mania, or bipolar disorder.
What are the symptoms of schizoaffective episodes?
Depending on the type of mood symptoms present, schizoaffective disorders may be classified into bipolar (consisting of both depressive and manic symptoms) or depressive type (consisting of only depressive symptoms).
Some of the major symptoms of a schizoaffective episode include:
- Psychotic symptoms
- Delusions (having a false but firm belief that does not go away despite strong and contradictory evidence, such as delusion of persecution, where a person thinks falsely that others are trying to harm them, or delusion of grandeur, where a person falsely believes that they have extreme power, wealth, or importance than others)
- Hallucinations (having false sensations, such as seeing things, hearing voices, tasting something, or smelling aromas that are not there)
- Abnormal muscle rigidity, making them attain bizarre postures
- Disturbed speech or communication (such as incoherent speech or difficulty having conversations, not speaking, or repeating purposely what others speak)
- Unusual behavior
- Absurd emotional responses or behavior
- Difficulty doing everyday tasks
- Mood symptoms
- Depressive symptoms, such as:
- Feeling sad, empty, hopeless, or worthless
- Having low energy or a decreased desire to do things or socialize
- Inability in finding pleasure in pleasurable things previously
- Tendencies for self-harm or committing suicide
- Appetite and weight changes
- Manic symptoms, such as:
- Exaggerated or elevated moods, such as extreme happiness
- Feeling too energetic with a decreased need to take rest or sleep
- Difficulty looking after personal needs including personal hygiene, appearance, or nutrition
- Rapid or pressured speech with a high tendency to speak a lot and go off the topic
- Engaging in risky behavior with disregard for consequences
- Restlessness and irritability
- Depressive symptoms, such as:
The affected person may have difficulty performing at school or work. The symptoms may even affect their personal or social relationships. A person with schizoaffective disorder is more likely to engage in drug and alcohol abuse.
How can you prevent schizoaffective episodes?
There is no definitive way to prevent a schizoaffective episode. Various factors may trigger or make a person vulnerable to having these episodes and not all of these may be identifiable or modifiable.
Nonetheless, proper treatment (including lifestyle measures, psychotherapy, and medications) can help manage the condition and ease the symptoms. Proper treatment may help the affected person lead a productive life and maintain healthy behavior at work and in social and personal relationships.
You can seek occupational rehabilitation and family or group counseling.
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Wy TJP, Saadabadi A. Schizoaffective Disorder. [Updated 2021 Aug 6]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK541012/
Stroup TS, Marder S. Schizophrenia in adults: Maintenance therapy and side effect management. UpToDate. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/schizophrenia-in-adults-maintenance-therapy-and-side-effect-management
Mayo Clinic. Schizoaffective disorder. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/schizoaffective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20354504
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