WHAT IS SCHIZOAFFECTIVE DISORDER?
Schizoaffective Disorder is more than a winning hand in Scrabble, it is a serious condition that combines the worst of two illnesses; 'schizo' refers to its psychotic symptoms and 'affective' refers to its 'mood' symptoms.
For those with schizoaffective disorder, they will experience a combination of symptoms associated with schizophrenia (hallucinations or delusions), and those of mood disorders, like depression, bipolar or mania.
Schizoaffective Disorder is even more problematic because it isn't as well known, or as well understood, as those other conditions. Having a mixture of two conditions is hard enough, but many people with it will also demonstrate different aspects of the two.
There are five distinct 'types' of schizoaffective disorder including:
- Depressive (a mixture of schizophrenia and depression)
- Manic (a mixture of schizophrenia and mania)
- Mixed (a mixture of schizophrenia, depression and mania)
- Unspecified (includes schizoaffective psychosis)
Schizoaffective disorder is more common in women than men and, on average, affects around 1 in every 200 people. If you've got 200 friends on Facebook, one of them may have the condition.
As we said above, two people both diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder may have two very different experiences of the same condition. The combination of psychotic features and the mood affecting disorders may occur together or separately.
It can also feature a cycle of symptoms that include severe episodes, followed by a period where your mood seems to improve. As such, the symptoms may vary but can include:
- Hallucinations; whereby someone can hear, see, smell and even feel things that aren't there including voices.
- Delusions, e.g. the belief that the world, in some way, is different than it really is. Depending on type of schizophrenia you have, the delusion may take different forms. For example, you may believe someone is following you, your thought are being heard aloud or that the TV is sending you messages.
- Periods of time where you have a sudden increase in energy or heightened behaviour that seems to be out of character.
- Low or depressive mood swings.
- Being more irritated than usual or feeling much better about yourself than usual.
A psychiatrist will diagnose you with schizoaffective disorder after you've undertaken a full psychological assessment and they will rely on guidance from the World Health Organisation's ICD-10 document or the American Psychiatric Association's DSM-5 document.
WHAT CAUSES SCHIZOAFFECTIVE DISORDER?
We can't, with any certainty, say what causes any type of mental illness and schizoaffective disorder is no exception. As a rule, most experts believe that it is a combination of a number of factors.
These can include an imbalance in brain chemicals, your own personal circumstances or genetics. Some believe that problems during your mother's pregnancy, which may have affected the brain's development, can also play a part.
WHAT TREATMENTS ARE AVAILABLE?
There are a number of treatments that have proved to be successful in treating schizoaffective disorder. These can include a number of self-help strategies (you can learn more about those here), medication (a combination of antipsychotic, antidepressant and mood stabilisers) and some talking therapies.
For those for whom schizoaffective disorder goes untreated, it can lead to a life of loneliness and have trouble holding down a job. They may also overly rely on family and friends or end up living in supported housing.
If you live with schizoaffective disorder, there may be some organisations on our Where To Turn pages that can help you. If not, and you know of one, please let us know and we'll look into it.