What Is Schizoaffective Disorder?

Schizoaffective disorder is a mental health condition that is marked by the combination of symptoms of schizophrenia, such as hallucinations or delusions, and symptoms of mood disorders, such as depression or mania. Typically, a diagnosis of schizophrenia is made when symptoms of schizophrenia and symptoms of a mood disorder, such as bipolar disorder or unipolar disorder, are present together over a period of at least two weeks. The DSM-5 states that if the patient experiences psychotic symptoms only during mood episodes, his diagnosis is mood disorder with psychotic features, and not schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder.

For this reason, some refer to the combination as Schizoaffective-type schizophrenia, though it is not a recognized schizophrenia type in the DSM-5. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), American Psychological Association (APA) schizophrenia covers many diagnostic features of schizophrenia with a mood component. Providers determine whether symptoms fit the particular disorder listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5).

Next, a psychiatrist or psychologist will conduct a clinical interview to determine whether symptoms fit criteria laid out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). A psychiatrist or psychologist specializes in diagnosing and treating conditions related to mental and behavioral health. Mental health professionals diagnose mental disorders using specially designed interviews and assessment tools.

If you find that symptoms are increasing, it is important to seek help as early as possible from a physician or another mental health professional. If there is no physical reason for your symptoms, your healthcare provider can refer you to a psychiatrist or psychologist.

In addition, a person should experience the psychotic symptoms for at least 2 weeks in periods of normal emotion. In contrast, schizophrenia affective disorder requires at least 2 weeks of having only psychotic symptoms (delusions and hallucinations) with no symptoms of mood. Once the psychotic symptoms dominate for most of the overall duration of the schizoaffective, then the diagnosis is more likely to be schizophrenic.

The symptoms meeting criteria for the primary affective episode are present during the majority of the total duration, in the active as well as residual part of the illness. Hallucinations and delusions lasting for two or more weeks without any major mood episode (manic or depressive) throughout the full duration of the life course of schizophrenia. An uninterrupted duration of illness in which a major mood episode (manic or depressive) occurs in addition to the criteria A for schizophrenia; a major depressive episode should involve a depressed mood.

Those of bipolar type will have a manic episode, and can have a depressive episode, whereas those of depressive type will have only the symptoms of depression. People with Schizoaffective Disorder have psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations or delusions, along with symptoms of mood disorders – either bipolar type (manic episodes, sometimes depressive) or depressive type (depressive episodes). Like other groups of symptoms, psychotic symptoms can also be divided into psychological and physical effects.

Other symptoms include delusions, hallucinations, negative symptoms, speech, and disordered behavior. Symptoms can also include speech or erratic behavior, as well as lack of expression and motivation for emotions. A person with schizophrenia can have auditory hallucinations, meaning they hear sounds and voices that are not real.

Sometimes, schizophrenia is mistakenly diagnosed as just bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, so it is essential that mental health professionals get a complete history of symptoms before making a diagnosis.

Schizoaffective disorder is included in the DSM-I and DSM-II as a subtype of schizophrenia, although studies show that individuals with family histories of mood disorders exhibit a cluster of symptoms that are more similar to schizophrenia, whereas the illness course, other symptoms, and treatment outcomes are more similar to bipolar disorder rather than schizophrenia. On the scale ranking symptom progression for mental health problems related to the schizophrenic spectrum, a mood disorder would have been the first diagnosis; as symptoms progressed, it would have been diagnosed as schizoaffective disorder, and if symptoms progressed further, then it would have been diagnosed as schizophrenia, and if symptoms progressed further, then schizophrenia, and, depending on symptoms, the ranking included other disorders depending on symptoms. On a ranking scale of symptom progression of mental health issues relating to the schizophrenic spectrum, a mood disorder would be the first diagnosis ; as symptoms progress it would then be diagnosed as schizoaffective disorder, and if symptoms progress even more it would then be diagnosed as schizophrenia, with other disorders included on the ranking as well depending on symptoms. Mania, hypomania, comorbid episodes, or depression could either be added to schizophrenia and schizophreniform disorders, or the comorbidity would then become one single category. Bizarre delusions or hallucinations involving at least two voices talking over one another, or only one voice engaging in running commentary on an individuals actions, met the criteria for a diagnosis by itself.

Whether you have been diagnosed with schizophrenia or are concerned that someone you know might be, or has recently been diagnosed, it is important to understand common symptoms, how the diagnosis is made, and how treatment may help to lessen symptoms and improve functioning in everyday life. A professional diagnosis, multifaceted treatment, and support from friends and family are critical in helping a person with Bipolar Disorder Schizoaffective Disorder regain a better lifestyle, free from challenging symptoms. Medication and therapy may help to lessen the frequency of symptom relapses and the disrupting of a persons life and that of others. Treatment generally involves a combination of medications, such as antipsychotics, antidepressants, or mood stabilizers, and psychological interventions, such as counseling.

Antidepressants or mood-stabilizing medications are used after symptoms of schizophrenia are controlled. If the individual is experiencing psychosis, neuroleptics (antipsychotics) are more commonly used, as antidepressants and lithium (used in bipolar disorder) require a few weeks before they begin working. Antipsychotics are the main medications used to treat psychotic symptoms associated with schizophrenia–such as delusions, hallucinations, and deranged thinking. After the psychotic symptoms have improved, the mood symptoms can be treated with antidepressants, lithium, anticonvulsants or electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

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