Schizoaffective Disorder

1 What is Schizoaffective Disorder?

Schizoaffective disorder is a condition when a person experiences a combination of symptoms like hallucinations or delusions (schizophrenia), and mania or depression (mood disorder).

It is not a well-defined condition because it a mix of different mental disorders.

People with this disorder lead a very difficult life trying to figure out their state of mind.  

2 Symptoms

Schizoaffective disorder is characterized by a mix of symptoms from different mental conditions like:

People may have bipolar-type schizoaffective disorder or depressive-type schizoaffective disorder. Psychotic symptoms and mood changes may occur simultaneously or at the different times.

People usually experience a cycle of severe symptoms followed by period of improvement. Typical signs and symptoms include delusions (false beliefs), hallucinations (hearing or seeing things which are not present), alternative episodes of depression and maniac, problems with personal cleanliness and appearance, paranoid thoughts or ideas and suicidal thoughts or behavior.

It is necessary to seek emergency help if a person with such disorder tries to attempt suicide and shows extreme maniac or depressive behavior.  

3 Causes

Since schizoaffective disorder is a mix of different mental conditions, therefore exact cause is unknown.

Some studies suggest the following:

  • genetic links,
  • brain chemistry,
  • brain development anomalies,
  • exposure to toxins or viral illness,
  • birth defects.

4 Making a Diagnosis

Diagnosis typically starts with a physical examination followed by medical and psychological tests like:

  • CBC,
  • drug screening,
  • MRI or CT,
  • most importantly psychological evaluation in which the doctor will observe patient’s mental status.

The doctor would ask questions about medical and psychiatric history.

The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) criteria is used to diagnose schizoaffective disorder which includes:

  • A mood disorder along with schizophrenia,
  • delusions or hallucinations for at least two weeks, even when mood disorders are under control,
  • presence of mood disorder for majority of time over the entire course of schizophrenic illness.   

5 Treatment

A combination of medication and psychotherapy is best treatment for patients with schizoaffective disorder.

Treatment varies according to type and variety of symptoms.

In medications the following are used to keep the symptoms under control:

  • antipsychotic (paliperidone, clozapine, risperidone, olanzapine or haloperidol);
  • mood-stabilizing agents (lithium or divalproex),
  • anticonvulsants (carbamazepine or valproate),
  • antidepressants (citalopram, fluoxetine or escitalopram).

In addition to medications, psychotherapy (talk therapy) in which special counselors help people with this disorder to understand schizoaffective disorder better and feel hopeful for their future.

6 Prevention

To prevent schizoaffective disorder one must have good knowledge about the cause of disease, but in this disease the exact cause is unknown. Although, some measures can be taken which may prevent the disease.

This disease is a mental illness. Steps must be taken to improve mental stability in order to prevent this disease.

Performing meditation and yoga will keep mind and soul intact which may be helpful.

Stress can cause many mental illnesses. A stress free lifestyle will also improve mental stability.

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

Schizoaffective disorder being a mental health problem can be treated by alternative remedies. They include:

  • Meditation- helps to calm the mind and keeps away from stress which is a major cause for schizoaffective disorder.
  • Yoga- an art of living which can enhance the neuro-mediators which are in inappropriate manner in schizoaffective disorder.
  • Hypnotism- a method to sedate the mind can decrease the symptoms of mania.

8 Lifestyle and Coping

Lifestyle modifications are necessary in order to cope with schizoaffective disorder.

Along with treatment schizoaffective disorder also requires support.

People suffering from this disease may benefit from:

  • support from family,
  • good social relationships,
  • training of social skills for work and school,
  • assistance in maintaining a healthy lifestyle which includes self-care,
  • regular physical activity along with healthy food.

9 Risks and Complications

There are several risks and complications associated with schizoaffective disorder.

Having close relations with people who are affected by schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder increase the risk of this disorder.

Common complications are as follows:

  • social isolation,
  • unemployment,
  • anxiety disorders,
  • developing alcohol or other substance abuse,
  • significant health problems and suicide.
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