A Brief Summary of Schizoaffective Disorder
Schizoaffective disorder is characterized by having components of both a mood disorder, such as bipolar disorder or major depressive disorder, and general schizophrenia, where one experiences visual and/or auditory hallucinations. Those with bipolar disorder as the mood component experience both elevated and depressed mood swings, while those with depressive disorder as their mood component experience only depressed moods.
These mood disorders typically occur simultaneously with the person’s hallucinations and altered perceptions. In some cases the mood disorder and the schizophrenic disorder will alternate. This means the person will suffer from either delusions or mood disturbances at any given moment, but not necessarily at the same time.
Schizoaffective disorder is typically diagnosed in early adulthood (ages 17-24). Detection before the age of 14 is very rare.
Schizoaffective Disorder and Addiction
As a generalization, drug addicts have a very high prevalence of mood disorders, due to the psychosis caused by the drugs they are using. Many addicts are misdiagnosed by their loved ones with schizoaffective disorder. In terms of schizoaffective disorder and addiction, doctors are typically careful to give a quasi-schizophrenic diagnosis.
When an addict has been using drugs for a long time (especially stimulants) he or she can show signs of hallucination and delusion. Given the addict’s initial mood-disorder as well as his or her drug-induced hallucinations, at that moment in time, they would meet the components for schizoaffective disorder. Somebody suffering drug-induced hallucinations is not actually schizophrenic though so diagnosing a current drug user as well as those who are very recently sober can be difficult.
Causes of Schizoaffective Disorder
Schizoaffective disorder is most often genetically inherited. Family genes are passed from parents to children so people with schizoaffective disorder inherit these genes. As with almost all mental disorders, schizoaffective is attributed to an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. Chemicals called neurotransmitters are either absent or do not operate the way in which they should. This chemical imbalance can lead to schizoaffective and is often the main attribution and cause for schizoaffective. Aside from genetic and chemical causes, environmental factors may play a role in the development of schizoaffective disorder. Viral infections and extreme stress may trigger schizoaffective in someone who is already pre-disposed to the disorder.
The Symptoms of Schizoaffective Disorder Can Include:
- Changes in appetite and energy
- Disorganized speech that is not logical
- False beliefs (delusions), such as thinking someone is trying to harm you (paranoia) or thinking that special messages are hidden in common places (delusions of reference)
- Lack of concern with hygiene or grooming
- Mood that is either too good, or depressed or irritable
- Problems sleeping
- Problems with concentration
- Sadness or hopelessness
- Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there (hallucinations)
- Social isolation
- Speaking so quickly that others cannot interrupt you
With schizoaffective disorder both the psychotic (delusions/hallucinations) and the mood instability (mania/depression) should be treated. Medication is very important. To treat the two co-occurring disorders one should seek a medication that helps with mood (mood-stabilizer) as well as a medication that can treat the psychotic symptoms, these medications are called anti-psychotics. Talk therapy can be very helpful in getting someone to understand their disorder and how to better deal with it. In talk therapy one can apply what they have learned into their daily lives.