- What Is
- How to Talk to Someone With
- Associated Conditions
What is schizoaffective disorder?
Communicating with someone with schizoaffective disorder can be quite difficult at times. To have the best interaction that you can, always try to be supportive and avoid being judgmental.
Schizoaffective disorder is a mental health condition that causes schizophrenia symptoms like delusions, hallucinations, depression, and mania. Many people with schizoaffective disorder are wrongly diagnosed with bipolar disorder or a mood disorder at first. That’s because the conditions have very similar symptoms.
This condition is quite rare, affecting about three people in every 1000 (0.3%). It affects males and females at about the same rate. However, men tend to develop schizoaffective disorder at a younger age than women do.
Schizoaffective disorder is classified into two types depending on the person’s associated mood disorder. The two types of schizoaffective disorder are:
- Bipolar disorder type. This is a schizoaffective disorder that involves mood changes: mania (extreme highs) and depression (extreme lows).
- Depressive type. This type of schizoaffective disorder is characterized by depression and difficulties concentrating and remembering things.
Main symptoms of schizoaffective disorder
Schizoaffective disorder may cause severe symptoms and require keen monitoring. People get different symptoms depending on their condition. The symptoms of schizoaffective disorder include:
- Hallucinations. Seeing or hearing things that don't exist.
- Delusions. Believing things that may be false, even with proof that they aren’t true.
- Disorganized thoughts. Switching from topic to topic or giving answers unrelated to the question asked.
- Depression. Feeling extreme worthlessness, sadness, emptiness, or low mood.
- Mania. People with bipolar type schizoaffective disorder may get racing thoughts, euphoria, and the tendency to engage in risky behavior.
Other possible symptoms of schizoaffective disorder include:
- Disorganized speech
- Paranoia (being fearful)
- Absence of emotion in speech and facial expressions
- Sluggishness or inability to move entirely
- Lack of motivation
- Unusual behavior
- Poor appetite
- Weight gain or loss
- Lack of sleep
Main causes of schizoaffective disorder
No one really knows what causes schizoaffective disorder. However, some factors have been found to play a part in the development of this condition. Some of these factors are:
- Genetic inheritance. Having a close family member who has schizoaffective disorder increases a person's chance of getting the condition. However, that doesn’t mean that they will definitely get the condition.
- Brain chemistry and structure. The structure and function of the brain may predispose a person to get schizoaffective disorder.
- Stress. Major life-changing events like divorce, death of a loved one, or loss of a job may cause the development of schizoaffective disorder or trigger its symptoms.
- Drug use. Using drugs that have psychoactive effects (e.g., LSD) may lead to the development of schizoaffective disorder.
Diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder
Diagnosing schizoaffective disorder can be difficult because it shares symptoms with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression. To be diagnosed with this condition, a person must have experienced some of the following:
- A major mood disorder (depression or mania) at the same time with other symptoms of schizophrenia
- Hallucinations or delusions for not less than two weeks without a major mood episode
- Having symptoms of a major mood episode most of the time
- Abuse of psychoactive drugs
Treatment of schizoaffective disorder
Schizoaffective disorder has no permanent cure. However, with treatment, someone with this condition can manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life significantly.
A doctor may prescribe medications such as mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and antipsychotic medications. They may also recommend psychotherapy treatment (cognitive behavioral therapy or family-focused therapy). People with schizoaffective disorder may also use self-management strategies and education to help manage it.
Therapy treatment should be combined with skills training to help with developing relationships and improving coping skills. Skills training helps people with schizoaffective disorder to learn how to groom, work, manage daily life activities, and improve their social skills. Family-focused therapy is also a good way to help the person's family cope with the condition and learn how to support the affected member.
Why is talking to someone with schizoaffective disorder difficult?
Some of the reasons that might make it difficult to talk to someone with schizoaffective disorder include that they may:
- Switch topics quickly
- Be hard to follow or understand
- Speak very slowly or very quickly
- Have different beliefs from you
- Be sluggish or lethargic
- Have problems with memory and concentration
- Get easily distracted by things they see, hear, or feel that you may not sense
- Use words and phrases that might be difficult for you to understand
How to talk to someone with schizoaffective disorder
As mentioned earlier, always try to be non-judgmental and supportive when communicating with people with schizoaffective disorder. Also, try using the same language they use to tell you about what they're going through. To communicate well with someone with schizoaffective disorder, try:
- Talking calmly and using a non-threatening voice
- Using short, clear sentences
- Showing empathy for their feelings, beliefs, and what they are going through
- Treating them with respect
- Not being judgmental about their beliefs and experiences
- Validating the positives and the things they find distressing or frustrating
- Appreciating that they may be fearful of what they are going through
- Avoiding arguing or challenging their beliefs or experiences
- Accepting when they don’t want to talk to you, but being available when they need to
- Listening carefully to them and understanding what they experience
People with schizoaffective disorder will often have another mental condition. Besides schizoaffective disorder, they may also have:
- Substance use disorder
- Anxiety disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Attachment Theory: What It Is, Stages & the Different Attachment Styles
- Gentle Parenting: What It Is, Techniques & Discipline
- U.S. Nursing Homes Fail to Report Many Serious Falls, Bedsores: Study
- The Younger You Get Diabetes, the Higher Your Risk for Dementia Later
- FDA Grants Full Approval to Paxlovid to Treat COVID-19
- More Health News »
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
betterhealth: "Schizoaffective disorder."
Cleveland Clinic: "Schizoaffective Disorder."
National Alliance on Mental Illness: "Schizoaffective Disorder."
NSW Health: "How can I communicate with someone experiencing psychosis?"
Top Talk to Someone With Schizoaffective Disorder Related Articles
What Are the Best Treatments for Schizophrenia? Can It Be Treated Naturally?Learn what medical treatments and natural treatments can ease your schizophrenia symptoms and help you manage this mental health condition.
Bipolar Disorder vs. SchizophreniaBipolar disorder and schizophrenia are mental illnesses that share some risk factors and treatments. Symptoms of bipolar disorder include mood changes and manic and depressive episodes. Symptoms of schizophrenia include unusual behavior, delusions, and hallucinations. Check out the center below for more medical references on mental illnesses, including multimedia (slideshows, images, and quizzes), related disease conditions, treatment and diagnosis, medications, and prevention or wellness.
Can Major Depression Turn into Schizophrenia?Sometimes, you can have depressive symptoms in the early stages of schizophrenia before or while you experience psychosis, but these disorders are separate diagnoses. Major depression doesn’t become schizophrenia.
Can You Be Bipolar and Schizophrenic?Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder have similar symptoms, which can make them hard to diagnose. Sometimes people have both disorders, or they have a mix of symptoms from both conditions at the same time or close together, which is called schizoaffective disorder.
Do People With Schizophrenia Tend to Be Violent?Schizophrenia is a serious mental health condition that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. People with schizophrenia aren’t usually violent.
How Long Can a Schizophrenic Episode Last?A schizophrenia episode might last days, weeks, or even months.
Mental HealthMental health is an optimal way of thinking, relating to others, and feeling. All of the diagnosable mental disorders fall under the umbrella of mental illness. Depression, anxiety, and substance-abuse disorders are common types of mental illness. Symptoms and signs of mental illness include irritability, moodiness, insomnia, headaches, and sadness. Treatment may involve psychotherapy and medication.
Schizoaffective DisorderSchizoaffective disorder is a mental illness that features schizophrenia and a mood disorder, either major depression or bipolar disorder. Symptoms include agitation, suicidal thoughts, little need for sleep, delusions, hallucinations, and poor motivation. Treatment may involve psychotherapy, medication, skills training, or hospitalization.
SchizophreniaSchizophrenia is a disabling brain disorder that may cause hallucinations and delusions and affect a person's ability to communicate and pay attention. Symptoms of psychosis appear in men in their late teens and early 20s and in women in their mid-20s to early 30s. With treatment involving the use of antipsychotic medications and psychosocial treatment, schizophrenia patients can lead rewarding and meaningful lives.
What's Schizophrenia? Symptoms, Types, Causes, TreatmentWhat is the definition of schizophrenia? What is paranoid schizophrenia? Read about schizophrenia types and learn about schizophrenia symptoms, signs, and treatment options.
Schizophrenia QuizSchizophrenia is a complex psychiatric disorder. Learn more about the challenges of mental illness with the Schizophrenia Quiz.
What Are the Top 10 Signs of Schizophrenia?Schizophrenia is a chronic mental health condition that affects how people think, feel, and act. The top 10 signs of schizophrenia include hallucinations, disorganized thinking, delusions, and other signs.
Mental Health: Where to Get Mental Health HelpWhen you think of mental health, lying on a couch in a therapist’s office may come to mind. But there are other options, and some are low-cost or even free. Here’s what you need to know.