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Schizoaffective Disorder

What is schizoaffective disorder?

Schizoaffective disorder is a mental illness. It includes a mix of the symptoms of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression.

How does it occur?

The cause of schizoaffective disorder is unknown. It seems to occur more in some families, and stress may trigger symptoms. About one person in 100 has schizoaffective disorder.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

  • hallucinations (you may hear, see, or feel things that aren't there)
  • delusions (false beliefs)
  • not taking care of yourself (for example, not bathing or grooming)
  • speaking in a way that makes no sense to others
  • withdrawing or feeling isolated from other people
  • thoughts that race from one idea to the next
  • feelings of sadness, guilt, hopelessness, and anxiety
  • feelings of being very happy, powerful, energetic
  • feeling drained of energy
  • feeling very energetic
  • losing or gaining weight
  • being unable to concentrate
  • sleeping more or less than normal

How is it diagnosed?

You should tell your healthcare provider or a psychiatrist if you are having symptoms of this disorder. Sometimes it is hard for people with mental illness to recognize that they are not well. Take the advice of your friends or family members if they are encouraging you to seek help.

Your provider will ask about your symptoms, relationships, history of drug and alcohol use, medical problems, and family history of medical conditions and mental illnesses. He or she may do a physical exam or order tests to rule out medical conditions.

How is it treated?

Medicines are the most important part of the treatment of schizoaffective disorder. Many medicines are available. Take your medicine as prescribed, even when you are feeling and thinking well. Otherwise your symptoms are likely to worsen. Watch closely for any side effects of your medicine, and report them to your healthcare provider.

Schizoaffective disorder can change the way you relate to others and the way you think about everyday activities. You may need someone to assist you with your daily needs. You may need help managing your money or running errands, for example. You may live in a group setting with others who also have this illness.

If your symptoms are severe, you may need to go to the hospital until they improve. While you are in the hospital your medicine may be changed, and you may attend groups to learn skills such as how to deal with stress.

How long do the effects last?

Schizoaffective disorder is usually a lifelong illness. Symptoms may go away for awhile, and then come back. This can affect relationships, and make it hard to hold a job or go to school. While there is no cure for this disorder, symptoms may be controlled with proper treatment.

How can I take care of myself?

  • Get support. Talk with family and friends. Ask your provider or therapist if there are any support groups in your area for people with schizoaffective disorder.
  • Learn to manage stress. Ask for help at home and work when the load is too great to handle. Find ways to relax, for example take up a hobby, listen to music, watch movies, take walks. Try deep breathing exercises when you feel stressed.
  • Take care of your physical health. Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Eat a healthy diet. Limit caffeine. If you smoke, quit. Avoid alcohol and drugs, because they can make your symptoms worse. Exercise according to your healthcare provider's instructions.
  • Check your medicines. To help prevent problems, tell your healthcare provider and pharmacist about all the medicines, natural remedies, vitamins, and other supplements that you take. Tell your therapist or healthcare provider about any changes in your symptoms or in the effectiveness of your medicines.
  • Contact your healthcare provider or therapist if you have any questions or your symptoms seem to be getting worse.
  • Get emergency care if you or a loved one have serious thoughts of suicide or harming others.

For more information, contact:

Written by Psychiatric Professional Services, Inc.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2011-06-13
Last reviewed: 2011-06-13
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2011 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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