Schizoaffective disorder is a serious mental illness that has features of two different conditions -- schizophrenia, and an affective (mood) disorder that may be diagnosed as either major depression or bipolar disorder.
Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that distorts the way a person thinks, acts, expresses emotions, perceives reality, and relates to others. Depression is an illness that is marked by feelings of sadness, worthlessness, or hopelessness, as well as problems concentrating and remembering details. Bipolar disorder is characterized by cycling mood changes, including severe highs (mania) and lows (depression).
There is no test that can make a schizophrenia diagnosis. People with schizophrenia usually come to the attention of a mental health professional after others see them acting strangely.
Doctors make a diagnosis through interviews with the patient as well as with friends and family members.
Psychiatrists have the most experience with diagnosing schizophrenia. A psychiatrist or other licensed mental health professional should be involved in making a schizophrenia diagnosis whenever possible.
Schizoaffective disorder is a lifelong illness that can impact all areas of daily living, including work or school, social contacts, and relationships. Most people with this illness have periodic episodes, called relapses, when their symptoms surface. While there is no cure for schizoaffective disorder, symptoms often can be controlled with proper treatment.
What Are the Symptoms of Schizoaffective Disorder?
A person with schizoaffective disorder has severe changes in mood and some of the psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia, such as hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized thinking. Psychotic symptoms in schizoaffective disorder occur even when mood symptoms are no longer present, and reflect the person's inability to tell what is real from what is imagined. Symptoms of schizoaffective disorder may vary greatly from one person to the next and may be mild or severe. Symptoms of schizoaffective disorder may include:
Weight loss or gain
Changes in sleeping patterns (sleeping very little or a lot)
Agitation (excessive restlessness)
Lack of energy
Loss of interest in usual activities
Feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness
Guilt or self-blame
Inability to think or concentrate
Thoughts of death or suicide
Increased activity, including work, social, and sexual activity
Increased and/or rapid talking
Rapid or racing thoughts
Little need for sleep
Self-destructive or dangerous behavior (such as going on spending sprees, driving recklessly, or having unsafe sex)
Delusions (strange beliefs that are not based in reality and that the person refuses to give up, even when presented with factual information)
Hallucinations (the perception of sensations that aren't real, such as hearing voices)