Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective Disorder
Schizoaffective disorder is a serious mental illness that has features of
two different conditions, schizophrenia and an affective (mood) disorder, 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).
Schizoaffective disorder is a life-long 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 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:
- Poor appetite
- 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
- Inflated self-esteem
- 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
- Disorganized thinking
- Odd or unusual behavior
- Slow movements or total immobility
- Lack of emotion in facial expression and speech
- Poor motivation
- Problems with speech and communication
What Causes Schizoaffective Disorder?
While the exact cause of schizoaffective disorder is not known, researchers
believe that genetic, biochemical, and environmental factors are involved.
- Genetics (heredity): A tendency to develop
schizoaffective disorder may be passed on from parents to their children.
- Brain chemistry: People with schizophrenia and mood
disorders may have an imbalance of certain chemicals in the brain. These
chemicals, called neurotransmitters, are substances that help nerve cells in
the brain send messages to each other. An imbalance in these chemicals can
interfere with the transmission of messages, leading to symptoms.
- Environmental factors: Evidence suggests that
certain environmental factors -- such as a viral infection, poor social
interactions or highly stressful situations -- may trigger schizoaffective
disorder in people who have inherited a tendency to develop the disorder.