Understanding the signs, symptoms, and effects of schizoaffective disorder is an important part of the effort to get help for yourself or your loved one. At Rio Vista Behavioral Health in El Paso, Texas, we’re proud to be a source of information and comprehensive care for adolescents and adults who have been struggling with schizoaffective disorder.
Learn about schizoaffective disorder
Schizoaffective disorder is a type of mental illness that is characterized by symptoms of schizophrenia along with either major depressive or manic episodes.
An accurate diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder can only be made following a thorough assessment by a qualified professional. In general, though, people who suffer from schizoaffective disorder will experience symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, disorganized or catatonic behaviors, and negative symptoms such as diminished emotional expressiveness.
In addition to these symptoms, people who have schizoaffective disorder will also experience either major depressive episodes or manic episodes. Major depressive episodes can include profound sadness, diminished lack of energy, disrupted sleep patterns, a pervasive sense of hopelessness, problems concentrating, and recurrent thoughts of death and dying. Manic episodes may involve increased energy, elevated mood, inflated self-esteem, lack of need for sleep, and delusions of grandiosity.
The disruptive nature of the symptoms of schizoaffective disorder can make it extremely difficult for adolescents and adults to live productive and satisfying lives.
However, schizoaffective disorder is a treatable condition. Comprehensive, personalized care can minimize symptoms of schizoaffective disorder. With the right type and level of professional help, a person whose life has been disrupted by the symptoms and effects of schizoaffective disorder can achieve an improved quality of life.
Statistics about schizoaffective disorder
The following statistics about schizoaffective disorder are from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the National Institute of Health (NIH):
- Schizoaffective disorder affects about 0.3% of the population.
- Schizoaffective disorder occurs at about the same rate among women as it does among men.
- As many as one-third of people with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder may attempt suicide.
Causes and risk factors for schizoaffective disorder
Schizoaffective disorder is a complex mental health condition whose causes are not completely understood. As is the case with most forms of mental illness, various factors can influence the likelihood that a person will develop symptoms of schizoaffective disorder. The following are among the risk factors for schizoaffective disorder:
- Family history of mental illness (especially having a parent or sibling who struggles with bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder, or schizophrenia)
- Age (symptoms of schizoaffective disorder most commonly first appear during young adulthood)
- Gender (among men, onset of symptoms of schizoaffective disorder is most common between the ages of 21 and 25; among women, symptoms of schizoaffective disorder most commonly appear during ages 25–30, as well as after age 40)
Symptoms of schizoaffective disorder
People who struggle with schizoaffective disorder may display a variety of signs and can experience a wide range of symptoms. The impact of schizoaffective disorder will depend upon the nature and severity of the episodes a person experiences. The following are among the more common signs and symptoms of schizoaffective disorder:
Symptoms of schizophrenia:
- Failing to tend to personal hygiene or other basic self-care responsibilities
- Disorganized thinking
- Inability to effectively express thoughts
- Memory problems
- Negative affect
Symptoms of major depressive episodes:
- Inability to focus, concentrate, or make decisions
- Altered appetite, with resultant change in weight
- Lack of energy
- Abnormal sleep patterns (insomnia or hypersomnia)
- Overwhelming sadness
- Pervasive sense of hopelessness or worthlessness
- Loss of interest in significant activities
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Recurrent intrusive thoughts of death
- Suicidal ideation
Symptoms of manic episodes:
- Boost in energy and activity levels
- Feelings of grandiosity
- Excessive self-confidence
- Euphoric mood
- Overly rapid speech
- Sensation of racing thoughts
- Engaging in risky, reckless, or otherwise dangerous behaviors
Effects of schizoaffective disorder
Untreated schizoaffective disorder can undermine a person’s efforts to live a healthy, productive, and satisfying life. A person who struggles with symptoms of schizoaffective disorder, but who does not receive proper professional help, may experience a broad scope of distressing outcomes. The following are among the many possible negative effects of untreated schizoaffective disorder:
- Strained or ruined family relationships
- Problems forming or maintaining healthy friendships or other relationships
- Substandard performance in school
- Academic failure
- Inability to get and keep a job
- Financial difficulties
- Elevated risk for medical problems (due to impaired ability to practice consistent self-care)
- Physical injuries (due to reckless or dangerous behaviors)
- Onset or worsening of mental health challenges
- Substance abuse and addiction
- Social withdrawal and isolation
- Pervasive sense of helplessness
- Suicidal ideation
It is no overstatement that untreated schizoaffective disorder can have a profound negative impact on a person’s life. However, it is important to understand that the types of challenges listed above are not unavoidable. When a person gets effective, comprehensive care for schizoaffective disorder, they can reduce their risk for continued harm and begin to heal from past trauma. With the right type and level of professional care, a person who deals with the symptoms of schizoaffective disorder can achieve improved quality of life.
Common co-occurring disorders among people who have schizoaffective disorder
Adolescents and adults who have developed schizoaffective disorder may also have an elevated risk for the following co-occurring mental health challenges:
- Anxiety disorders
- Substance use disorders (which is the clinical term for addiction)