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  • What Is Schizoaffective Disorder? | Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment

    Published on January 26, 2024
    Man Suffering From Mental Health Issues-What Is Schizoaffective Disorder? | Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment

    Schizoaffective disorder is a mental health condition where you experience hallucinations, delusions, and major mood episodes. Stress, unusual brain chemistry, and a family history of mental illness, can increase your risk of schizoaffective disorder.

    Schizoaffective disorder is rare and difficult to diagnose. This is because schizoaffective disorder is a separate condition from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression, even if it shares symptoms of these conditions.

    About 0.3 percent of people may develop schizoaffective disorder in their lifetime. If you or a loved one have symptoms of schizoaffective disorder, a mental health treatment program can help.

    Causes Of Schizoaffective Disorder

    The exact causes of schizoaffective disorder are unknown. 

    However, a major risk factor for schizoaffective disorder is your family members. Research suggests that a twin has about a 40 percent chance of developing schizoaffective disorder if their other twin already has the condition.

    Unusual brain chemistry is another risk factor for schizoaffective disorder. In healthy patients, the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) can reduce feelings of stress and fear. Low levels of this neurotransmitter can be linked to mental health problems.

    Environmental factors, such as stress and trauma, can also increase your risk of schizoaffective disorder. A combination of these factors can lead to symptoms developing as soon as adolescence or early adulthood.

    Symptoms Of Schizoaffective Disorder

    Schizoaffective disorder is divided into two subtypes. The bipolar type involves symptoms of mania and depression along with symptoms of schizophrenia. The depressive type involves symptoms of depression and symptoms of schizophrenia.

    Symptoms of schizoaffective disorder are also separated into psychotic and mood symptoms. To receive a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, persistent mood symptoms and psychotic symptoms may need to be present.

    Psychotic Symptoms

    Psychotic symptoms include changes in perception, beliefs, and understanding of the world around you. Schizoaffective disorder and schizophrenia both have psychotic symptoms.

    Symptoms of psychosis may include:

    • hallucinations (hearing voices or seeing objects that are not actually there)
    • delusions (strong but false beliefs)
    • disorganized thoughts and speech (unusual thinking or speaking patterns)
    • negative symptoms, such as flat affect or catatonia (not responding to your surroundings)

    These symptoms can occur during psychotic episodes. Patients with schizoaffective disorder may have persistent psychotic episodes along with frequent mood episodes.

    Mood Symptoms

    Mood symptoms affect your energy levels, how you act, and your overall quality of life. The two types of schizoaffective disorder can cause either depressive or manic episodes. During a mood episode, your changed mental state may last for at least one week.

    Symptoms of mania may include increased energy, a lack of sleep, racing thoughts, irritability, and reckless behavior. Symptoms of depression can include a loss of interest in your daily activities, feelings of worthlessness, excessive sleeping, and suicidal thoughts.

    Treatment Options For Schizoaffective Disorder

    Entering a mental health treatment program can help you treat schizoaffective disorder. Professional treatment programs can assess your specific needs and create effective treatment plans for you or your loved one.


    Treatment providers can prescribe medication to manage symptoms of schizoaffective disorder. Antipsychotic medications can treat psychotic symptoms. Mood stabilizers such as lithium can manage major mood episodes, while antidepressant medications can reduce symptoms of depression.


    Medication is more effective when you attend psychotherapy sessions. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you work with a mental health professional to understand and manage your mental health symptoms. Other forms of therapy may include family therapy and group therapy.

    Ark Behavioral Health

    While schizoaffective disorder has a low prevalence in the United States, it can severely hurt your quality of life. Schizoaffective disorder can affect your ability to function, interact with your loved ones, and even increase your risk of illicit substance use.

    If you need a primary mental health treatment or dual diagnosis treatment program for schizoaffective disorder, contact us today. 

    Our mental health treatment options include psychotherapy, medication management, social skills training, attending support group meetings, and other personalized options.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.
    Article Sources

    American Psychiatric Association - What Is Schizophrenia?
    National Alliance on Mental Illness - Schizoaffective Disorder
    National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Schizoaffective Disorder
    National Library of Medicine: StatPearls - Schizoaffective Disorder

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