What is schizoaffective disorder?

Schizoaffective disorder is a mental health condition that causes schizophrenia symptoms like delusions, hallucinations, depression, and mania. Always try to be non-judgmental and supportive when communicating with people with schizoaffective disorder.
Schizoaffective disorder is a mental health condition that causes schizophrenia symptoms like delusions, hallucinations, depression, and mania. Always try to be non-judgmental and supportive when communicating with people with 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:

  1. Bipolar disorder type. This is a schizoaffective disorder that involves mood changes: mania (extreme highs) and depression (extreme lows).
  2. 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:

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.

SLIDESHOW

17 Everyday Ways to Ease Depression See Slideshow

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

Associated conditions

People with schizoaffective disorder will often have another mental condition. Besides schizoaffective disorder, they may also have:

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

Medically Reviewed on 5/24/2022
References
SOURCES:

betterhealth: "Schizoaffective disorder."

Cleveland Clinic: "Schizoaffective Disorder."

National Alliance on Mental Illness: "Schizoaffective Disorder."

NSW Health: "How can I communicate with someone experiencing psychosis?"