Schizoaffective disorder is a relatively rare medical condition that isn’t nearly as well known as related mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disorder.
Schizoaffective disorder is characterized by many of the symptoms that can be found in patients suffering from schizophrenia, most commonly psychosis (a loss of touch with reality), auditory and visual hallucinations, delusions, odd patterns of speech, and difficulty concentrating.
These symptoms of schizophrenia are simultaneously paired with symptoms of a mood disorder, either major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder.
Issues associated with the mood aspects of the disorder can include manic episodes (a period of intense energy and potentially delusions), anhedonia (an inability to feel pleasure), sleep disturbances, suicidal thoughts, impulsive behavior, and extreme hopelessness.
Schizoaffective disorder is potentially debilitating and can have serious ramifications for the everyday lives of sufferers. Encountering serious problems in the workplace and in the home is the norm. Basic things like paying bills, sticking to a schedule, and maintaining relationships can become incredibly difficult. In extreme cases, hospitalization might be required, especially when delusions become extreme or if manic episodes become too severe.
Due to the many disruptive symptoms of the disorder, social isolation often becomes a major concern. Many of the hallucinations and delusions resulting from schizoaffective disorder encourage sufferers to avoid interaction with other people as they begin to perceive those around them as overly judgemental and dangerous, despite whether evidence to the contrary is presented.
Depressive moods associated with the disorder can cause people to lose all interest in social interaction, and a lack of enjoyment found in activities can make doing things with other people difficult. Similarly, instances of mania can lead to impulsive and uncharacteristic behavior that can cause others to view someone with schizoaffective disorder with scorn or discomfort, leading to further social isolation.
Schizoaffective disorder affects roughly 0.3% of the population and can be found equally among men and women, although men tend to show symptoms at an earlier age. The root cause of the disorder is unknown, although it is known that a combination of genetic and certain environmental factors contribute to its development.
The disorder is rarely found in children as symptoms generally arise during early adulthood. If someone is related to another person who has the disorder, they’re more likely to develop it. It’s also been known to develop following the use of certain hallucinogenic drugs.
As schizoaffective disorder can significantly limit quality of life and even result in suicidal behavior, it’s important for people to get treatment. Treatment consists of a combination of mental health counseling and medication. Consultations with medical doctors and psychologists are usually necessary to make an effective treatment plan.
Due to the complex array of symptoms that accompany schizoaffective disorder, a mixture of different medication classes is commonly prescribed to get the disorder under control, including antidepressant, mood-stabilizing, and antipsychotic medications.
Therapy can help sufferers immensely by providing the necessary framework to help them deal with delusions, psychotic symptoms, and extreme emotions.
While schizoaffective disorder can have a negative impact on people’s lives and presents a great deal of difficulty, it is treatable, and many people with schizoaffective disorder go on to have fulfilling lives following treatment as they are better able to manage symptoms.