Schizoaffective disorder is a mental condition that causes both a loss of contact with reality (psychosis) and mood problems.
The exact cause of schizoaffective disorder is unknown. Changes in genes and chemicals in the brain (neurotransmitters) may play a role. Some experts do not believe it is a separate disorder from schizophrenia.
Schizoaffective disorder is believed to be less common than schizophrenia and mood disorders. Women may have the condition more often than men. Schizoaffective disorder tends to be rare in children.
The symptoms of schizoaffective disorder are different in each person. Often, people with schizoaffective disorder seek treatment for problems with mood, daily function, or abnormal thoughts.
Psychosis and mood problems may occur at the same time, or by themselves. The course of the disorder may involve cycles of severe symptoms followed by improvement.
The symptoms of schizoaffective disorder can include:
Your health care provider will do a psychiatric evaluation to find out about your behavior and symptoms. You may be referred to a psychiatrist to confirm the diagnosis.
To be diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, you must have psychotic symptoms during a period of normal mood for at least 2 weeks.
The combination of psychotic and mood symptoms in schizoaffective disorder can be seen in other illnesses, such as bipolar disorder. Extreme disturbance in mood is an important part of schizoaffective disorder.
Your health care provider should consider and rule out medical, psychiatric, and drug-related conditions that cause psychotic or mood symptoms before making a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder. For example, psychotic or mood disorder symptoms can occur in people who:
Treatment can vary. In general, your health care provider will prescribe medications to improve your mood and treat psychosis.
Talk therapy can help with creating plans, solving problems, and maintaining relationships. Group therapy can help with social isolation.
Support and work training may be helpful for work skills, relationships, money management, and living situations.
People with schizoaffective disorder have a greater chance of going back to their previous level of function than do people with most other psychotic disorders. However, long-term treatment is often needed, and results can vary from person to person.
Complications are similar to those for schizophrenia and major mood disorders. These include:
Call your health care or mental health provider if you or someone you know is experiencing any of the following:
Freudenreich O, Weiss AP, Goff DC. Psychosis and schizophrenia. In: Stern TA, Rosenbaum JF, Fava M, Biederman J, Rauch SL, eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier;2008:chap 28.
Updated by: Fred K. Berger, MD, DLFAPA, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, UCSD School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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