Schizoaffective disorder is a mental health disorder that affects mood and thought. Per the Cleveland Clinic, it is one of four main types of schizophrenia, and mood issues are the primary problem for people who have it. It is, however, a treatable condition. If you or someone you know has schizoaffective disorder, you are encouraged to seek professional help for it as soon as you can.
When left untreated, it can be difficult to hold a job, have a relationship, or care for oneself. An individual with schizoaffective disorder can also develop problematic substance abuse habits if they use addictive substances to self-medicate against the disorder’s harrowing symptoms. Such abuse can lead to substance addiction, which will also require outside help. Professional treatment can help people with schizoaffective disorder avoid this scenario.
Different Types of Schizoaffective Disorder
Not everyone who has schizoaffective disorder will experience the same type. There is a bipolar type and a depressive type. Each has its own symptoms, and a proper diagnosis from a medical professional can confirm which one a person has.
Per the Cleveland Clinic, people with schizoaffective disorder can experience depression (feelings of sadness or hopelessness), mania (racing thoughts and grandiose beliefs), and hypomania (a less intense form of mania). They also can have delusions, abnormal thinking, and detachment from reality, which are all psychiatric symptoms of schizophrenia.
Per HealthyPlace.com, if a person has a bipolar type of disorder, they must have at least one manic episode. If they have the depressive type of the disorder, then they have only depression-related symptoms. A low mood must be consistently present.
Mood symptoms are a constant with both kinds of schizoaffective disorder, which is also a psychotic disorder, as the website reminds. This means psychosis, the state in which individuals experience disruptions in thinking and perception, must also consistently be present in people with schizoaffective disorder.
Symptoms of Schizoaffective Disorder
Individuals with schizoaffective disorder can develop the condition in various ways. Per the Mayo Clinic, it presents when a person has a major mood episode (which can involve depression or mania) and a two-week period of psychotic symptoms when a major mood episode is not occurring.
If you suspect that a person may have schizoaffective disorder, you may notice the following symptoms, which include symptoms of psychosis:
- Paranoia, paranoid thoughts
- Catatonia (not being able to move around normally)
- Disorganized speech, trouble verbally communicating
- Unorganized behaviors, thoughts
- Difficulty concentrating, focusing
- Changes in appetite
- Poor hygiene habits
- Sleep disturbances (insomnia)
- Increased social isolation
- Suicidal thoughts
As mentioned earlier, it is important to get professional treatment for people who have schizoaffective disorder. Those with the disorder are at increased risk of dying by suicide and making suicide attempts, the Mayo Clinic says. Substance use disorders are another possibility. Schizoaffective disorder can also lead to other challenges, including:
- Other mental health disorders, such as those involving post-traumatic stress disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder
- Poverty and homelessness
- Various physical health problems
- Conflicts with loved ones
What Causes Schizoaffective Disorder and How Is It Diagnosed?
Scientists do not fully understand what causes the schizoaffective disorder. In many cases, this lack of understanding means a person with the disorder could be given the wrong diagnosis, delaying the care they need if not derailing it entirely. The disorder can be mistaken for schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
These mixups occur partly because schizoaffective disorder, a rare condition, is less studied than the other two, per the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
The treatment methods used for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are also used to treat the schizoaffective disorder, which is medication and therapy. These are used together to help a person get well.
Genetics, environment, and chemical imbalances are among the factors considered. Some theorize that having a close blood relative with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or schizoaffective disorder can increase the risk of someone developing the schizoaffective disorder. Per NAMI, the schizoaffective disorder affects women and men at the same rate, but men develop the condition at an earlier age than women.
Diagnosing the Disorder
A medical appointment to confirm if an individual has a schizoaffective disorder could start with a physical exam that includes several tests and screenings. Even though a mental health disorder is a focus, a physical exam can help medical professionals rule out other causes for the condition.
A professional conducting a psychiatric exam will likely ask a series of questions to learn more about the symptoms a person is experiencing. Their answers can help the medical professional better understand a person’s changes in mood and psychotic symptoms.
The information gleaned from the evaluations will be compared to the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Disorders (DSM-V) to determine if the individual has schizoaffective disorder.
If it is determined that schizoaffective disorder is present, then the next step is to determine the best way to treat it.
Treating Schizoaffective Disorder
An integrated approach can be used to treat people with the disorder. This means they are likely to undergo a program that combines medication, psychotherapy, hospital care, and life skills training if needed. Prompt ongoing treatment is found to be key to addressing this illness.
Medication Therapy Helps with Mood Changes
The Cleveland Clinic advises that such treatment involves administering antidepressants, which are medications that lift one’s mood, as well as mood stabilizers that can help balance a person’s lows and highs. Antipsychotic medications can be given to help a person regulate their thoughts.
Psychotic medications should be taken only if a person is experiencing psychotic symptoms. If they regularly have trouble regulating their moods, they may be advised to continue antidepressant use, along with taking mood stabilizer medication.
Therapy Offers Tools to Manage Schizoaffective Disorder
Psychotherapy and counseling are used in tandem with medication to help a person manage their illness daily in a healthy way. Coping with life’s challenges while managing a mental health disorder is not easy, so people must be given tools and strategies that can help them make sound decisions when life’s challenges occur.
Effective therapies include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps people identify disordered thinking and find better alternative ways to respond to the situations they face. Group therapy and family counseling are also available to help people and their families receive support.
Life skills training can help people with schizoaffective disorder establish and maintain order in their lives as they care for themselves. This can include help with organizing their finances and finding employment. Hospital care is also available to keep people safe from harming themselves or others should they become suicidal or experience psychosis.
Substance Use and Schizoaffective Disorder
If a person with schizoaffective disorder turns to drugs and alcohol to help them cope with the disorder, they are at risk of developing an addiction to these substances. They also are at increased risk of dying from an overdose, especially if they are caught up in the cycle of using substances and relapsing after taking breaks from substance use.
People who have a substance use disorder and schizoaffective disorder have co-occurring disorders, which are also known as dual diagnoses. This means they are dealing with both disorders at the same time. It also means that one condition is contributing to the worsening of the other. A person with both conditions requires treatment that addresses both disorders at the same time.
Determining if a dual diagnosis is present will also require a medical professional’s review and confirmation that this is the case. If a person meets the criteria for co-occurring disorders, they can enter a recovery program that addresses both conditions concurrently.
These programs offer residential care, which allows for a longer on-site stay at a facility. This arrangement is highly recommended for people with severe addictions that require 24-hour monitoring that includes medical and therapy support. People who do not have severe cases can receive treatment in an outpatient program. These programs can also be used to transition patients into a facility if it is determined later that they need more support.
Get Help for Schizoaffective Disorder Today
Delphi Behavioral Health Group is a leading treatment provider with facilities across the United States that are dedicated to helping people who have substance use disorders. We know it is not easy to live with either a mental health disorder or addiction, which is why we encourage you to give us a call today so we can learn how we can help you.
Our facilities offer the medical treatment, psychotherapy, and care you need. Our medical and addiction care professionals put our clients first at all times, and our low clinician-to-patient ratio ensures that the focus is on the clients’ needs. We work with you to offer a customized treatment program that keeps you in mind at all times and adjusts as your needs change.
We also promote and support family involvement in helping people work through their substance use disorder and mental health disorder so that they can live in full-time sobriety. Overcoming challenges tied to both is hard, but we know no one has to do it alone. Delphi will be there every step of the way to encourage you and your loved one to make the changes that promote long-lasting recovery.
To get started on exploring our options here that promote health and wellness for all, give us a call today.