Many people have heard of the mental health disorder known as schizophrenia, but schizoaffective disorder is another illness that features a combination of both schizophrenia and mood disorder symptoms. Schizophrenia is marked by symptoms of psychosis which include hallucinations, delusions, and a loss of contact with reality. To be diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, however, one must also experience the mania or depression commonly associated with having a mood disorder.
Mental health disorders can be difficult to identify, especially in the case of schizoaffective disorder. That’s because people with this condition have symptoms of two separate mental illnesses so it’s possible to be diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder when it is actually a combination of both. This, paired with the fact that each person may exhibit variations in type or severity of symptoms makes schizoaffective disorder particularly challenging to identify.
Types of Schizoaffective Disorder
There are two different forms of schizoaffective disorder based on the type of mood disorder symptoms exhibited. These symptoms can be experienced at the same time or separately from psychosis, but most often they will occur in cycles with symptomatic periods followed by asymptomatic periods. The two forms of schizoaffective disorder include:
Just as with bipolar disorder, those who have bipolar type schizophrenic disorder experience dramatic highs, or manic episodes, either with or without depressive symptoms. Manic episodes can include periods of high energy, increased activity, and quick changes in mood state. Bipolar type schizoaffective disorder may also include depression symptoms such as low mood and a lack of energy, although they may not be present in everyone.
Depressive type schizoaffective disorder is characterized by symptoms of psychosis and depression but without episodes of mania. Depression symptoms are similar to those associated with major depression and can include low energy, feelings of hopelessness, and a loss of interest in usual activities among other things.
Signs and Symptoms Schizoaffective Disorder
Most people start to develop symptoms in adolescence or young adulthood, although onset and development can vary widely from person to person. To be diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, a person must experience psychotic symptoms as well as prominent and persistent mood episodes that generally fall under the categories of either depressive or a combination of manic and depressive.
- Hallucinations — hearing or seeing things that aren’t there
- Delusions — having a false sense of reality
- Disorganized thinking
- Strange behavior
- Impaired communication
- Feelings of sadness
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Lack of energy or motivation
- Eating or sleeping too little or too much
- Guilt or self-blame
- Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Having trouble focusing or making decisions
- Increased energy and activity
- Feeling overly elated
- Decreased need for sleep
- Racing thoughts
- Inflated self-esteem
- Self-destructive or risky behavior
The exact cause of schizoaffective disorder is unknown, however, it is thought to be linked to several genetic, environmental, and biochemical factors. People who have a parent or other blood relative with the disorder are more likely to develop it as well. Similar to other mental health disorders, individual brain chemistry can also play a part. An imbalance in the brain neurotransmitters can interfere with proper function and cause symptoms to occur.
Environmental factors are a third potential cause of schizoaffective disorder. Factors such as experiencing stressful events, trauma, or even exposure to certain viruses while in the womb may also contribute to the development of the disorder. While there is no known cure for schizoaffective disorder, seeking treatment from an experienced psychologist like Dr. Blair of Blair Wellness Group has been shown to be very effective in reducing symptoms and helping a person cope with the challenges they may face.
Those who do not get effective treatment for schizoaffective disorder are at a higher risk of developing several complications that can affect nearly every part of their life. That’s why, whether you’ve been misdiagnosed in the past or you’ve hesitated to reach out and seek help, it’s important to make your health and happiness a priority now. Mental health disorders affect everyone differently, but if left untreated, they can lead to serious problems including:
- Social isolation
- Substance abuse or other forms of addiction
- Anxiety disorders
- Relationship problems
- Issues at work or even difficulty keeping a job
- Physical health problems
- Risky behavior that can affect personal safety, relationships, or financial stability
- Suicidal thoughts or attempt
Overlapping physical and mental health conditions can worsen the already difficult and varied symptoms associated with schizoaffective disorder. Although symptoms may not be eliminated entirely, patients can avoid a downward spiral and get effective relief that will allow them to better manage and cope on a daily basis.
Treatment For Schizoaffective Disorder
Schizoaffective disorder is a chronic, lifelong mental health condition that can impact all facets of daily living. Although symptoms may only be periodic, their effects can be long-lasting. Treatment for the disorder usually includes medication to treat symptoms of psychosis, but psychotherapy is another valuable treatment necessary for helping people cope and improve interpersonal skills. Psychotherapy is not only beneficial for the person struggling with the disorder, but it’s also beneficial for family members or loved ones who want to better understand what they are going through so they may contribute to their wellness plan.
Schizoaffective Disorder Treatment at Blair Wellness Group
If you or someone you know is affected by schizoaffective disorder and are looking for an experienced and trusted psychotherapist in Beverly Hills, we encourage you to reach out to us. Dr. Blair holds a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology and is credentialed as medical staff to admit patients at various psychiatric hospitals throughout Los Angeles County if needed. She is vastly experienced in treating clients with a wide variety of mental health disorders and can offer each person a unique combination of therapies and treatments so they may achieve faster, long-lasting results.
To learn more, or to make an appointment, please contact us at 310.999.4996. We offer evening and weekend appointments and welcome patients from Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, West Hollywood, Brentwood, Santa Monica, and the surrounding areas.
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