Schizoaffective & Schizophreniform
Schizoaffective disorder is one of several types of psychotic disorders, also known as psychoses. As with other psychotic disorders, people with schizoaffective disorder have lost touch with reality. However, schizoaffective disorder distinguishes itself from other psychoses because people affected will also have another mood disorder.
According to the Diagnostical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV), an individual must meet these requirements to be diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder:
1. Portrays at least two of the following symptoms more than 50% of the time for a minimum of one month (without any treatment):
- Is delusional
- Has incoherent or disordered speech severe enough to completely hinder communication
- Portrays extremely disordered behaviors, like unusual dress or is catatonic
- Portrays negative systems, such as being emotionally unresponsive or withdrawing from society
- At some point during these symptoms, the patient also experiences major depression, mania, and/or a mixed episode.
In cases where the patient has bizarre delusions (ideas/beliefs which are not feasibly possible) or the patient hears voices, then only this symptom must be evident to meet the criteria of 1).
2. The delusional or hallucinatory symptoms were present for at least two weeks without the occurrence of the mood disorder symptoms.
3. The symptoms of mood disorder/s are present for a significant part of the illness period.
4. The symptoms are not a result of drugs or another medical condition.
Types of schizoaffective disorder
Schizoaffective disorder can be broken down into two types depending on the type of mood disorder symptoms which are present. Schizoaffective bipolar type presents itself with symptoms of mania and/or mixed episodes. Schizoaffective depressive type presents itself with only depressive episodes, not manic episodes.
How many people are affected by schizoaffective disorder?
Because there are differences in the diagnostic approaches taken by mental health professionals, there are disagreements as to the prevalence of this disorder. However, it can be estimated that schizoaffective disorder is rare and occurs in considerably less than 1% of the general population. For psychiatric inpatients, schizoaffective disorder occurs at about 3-5% of cases. Generally speaking, more women, particularly women who are married, develop schizoaffective disorder, with their symptoms appearing later in life than those of men.
Signs and symptoms of schizoaffective disorder
The signs of schizoaffective disorder most typically occur during the later years of adolescence. However, there have been some rare cases of childhood schizoaffective disorder diagnosed. People with schizoaffective disorder will show recurrent episodes of psychosis and mood disorder symptoms. Note that the psychotic episodes that occur with schizoaffective disorder are not part of the patient’s personality nor are they permanent.
The symptoms of psychosis can include paranoid thoughts and behaviors, becoming delusional, and hallucinating. With the depressive type of schizoaffective disorder, patients will also show symptoms such as lethargy, deep sadness, and changes in eating or sleeping behaviors. With the bipolar type of schizoaffective disorder, patients will show symptoms of depression alternating with mania. Manic symptoms can include a lack of need to sleep, hyperactive behaviors or thoughts, and extreme highs.
It can be very difficult to recognize schizoaffective disorder because it presents symptoms of mood disorders and psychoses. Further, many patients with schizoaffective disorder also have comorbid disorders, meaning that other mental health disorders such as anxiety are also present.
Causes of schizoaffective disorder
The exact cause of schizoaffective disorder is not known. However, most experts believe that schizoaffective disorder occurs because of imbalances of neurotransmitters in the brain. Evidence shows that schizoaffective disorder is likely genetically inherited. Further, external factors such as drug abuse, prenatal exposure to drugs or toxins, or childbirth complications, could result in schizoaffective disorder.
Is there an effective treatment for schizoaffective disorder?
Mental health professionals use a three-pronged approach to the treatment of this disorder –hospitalization, medication, and therapy. Many times, individuals in need of help are in the midst of a psychotic episode; they’re disoriented and may be incoherent.
To protect them from harm, immediate hospitalization may be necessary. Treatment with antipsychotic medications such can reduce the chances of a major psychotic episode. Antidepressants, sleeping pills, and/or anti-anxiety medications may also prescribed, depending on the needs of the individual patient. Supportive, individual psychotherapy centered on the development of coping and social skills can be very helpful.