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Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective Disorder

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).

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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:

Depression

  • 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

Mania

  • Increased activity, including work, social, and sexual activity
  • Increased and/or rapid talking
  • Rapid or racing thoughts
  • Little need for sleep
  • Agitation
  • Inflated self-esteem
  • Distractibility
  • Self-destructive or dangerous behavior (such as going on spending sprees, driving recklessly, or having unsafe sex)

Schizophrenia

  • 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)
  • 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

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