Schizoaffective Disorder Treatment


Schizoaffective Disorder Treatment

Schizoaffective disorder is a psychotic disorder with features of a mood disorder. If you experience classic symptoms of psychosis, such as hallucinations and delusions, and experience episodes of mania or depression, you may suffer from schizoaffective disorder. 

What is schizoaffective disorder? 

Schizoaffective disorder is a chronic mental health disorder that affects less than a million estimated adults in the United States. There are two main categories of schizoaffective disorder into which patients fall:

  • Depressive schizoaffective disorder
  • Bipolar schizoaffective disorder

What is bipolar schizoaffective disorder?

In addition to psychotic symptoms, individuals with bipolar schizoaffective disorder may experience manic episodes and depressive episodes. Manic episodes can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks and are characterized by elevated mood, intense energy, impulsive thoughts, and other extreme behaviors.

What is depressive schizoaffective disorder?

Individuals with depressive schizoaffective disorder only experience depressive episodes in addition to psychotic symptoms. Depressive episodes typically last several months to a year and are characterized by:

  • Low mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Lack of interest in things once enjoyed
  • Appetite changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

How is schizoaffective disorder different from schizophrenia?

It is often difficult to tell the difference between schizoaffective disorder and schizophrenia due to overlapping symptoms. The main difference is that with schizoaffective disorder, a mood disorder is prominent.


What causes the schizoaffective disorder?

Although the direct cause of schizoaffective disorder has not yet been determined, many researchers speculate that the disorder is caused by a combination of biological and genetic factors. Many scientists believe the schizoaffective disorder is a variant of schizophrenia or several other disorders.

  • Brain chemistry and structure: Studies of individuals with schizophrenia have demonstrated subtle differences in their brain structure. If you have schizophrenia and mood disorders, you might lack dopamine and have problems with neural circuits in the brain that manage thinking and mood.‍
  • Genetics: No single gene is responsible for the development of the schizoaffective disorder, but evidence shows that you may inherit a tendency to get features linked to the disease from your parents.

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What are the symptoms of the schizoaffective disorder?

The overall symptoms of schizoaffective disorder can be divided into four main categories: 

  • Positive symptoms
  • Negative symptoms
  • Mania 
  • Depression

What are the positive symptoms of schizoaffective disorder?

Positive symptoms are characterized by altered perceptions and abnormal thinking. These symptoms include:

  • Disorganized thoughts and speech: Common indicators include repeating phrases or diverting off-topic during the middle of a sentence. This is a direct result of lack of concentration typical with schizoaffective disorder.
  • Hallucinations: These are sensations of seeing or hearing things that don’t exist. Many individuals with paranoid schizophrenia experience hallucinations that tend to worsen when isolated from others.‍
  • Delusions: These are falsely held beliefs that are generally disregarded or proven wrong by others. The person affected may believe that their thoughts or actions are controlled by an outside source, such as the government, or are being persecuted.

What are the negative symptoms of schizoaffective disorder?

Negative symptoms experienced by individuals with the schizoaffective disorder include:

  • Social withdrawal: Decreased interest or motivation for interacting with others or forming relationships.
  • Lack of pleasure: A reduced ability to experience pleasant emotions.‍
  • Flattening: A decrease in emotional expression, including speaking in a monotone voice and showing apathetic facial expressions.

What are the symptoms of mania?

Symptoms may consist of excessive happiness, restlessness, rapid speech, impulsive behavior, sleeplessness, lack of appetite, distraction, overconfidence, and drug abuse.

What are the symptoms of depression?

Symptoms may consist of sadness, feelings of hopelessness, lack of interest in things an individual once liked, uncontrollable crying, trouble making decisions, appetite changes, and thoughts of death or suicide.


When do people most commonly develop the schizoaffective disorder?

The schizoaffective disorder most commonly develops in individuals from their late teens to early adulthood and is rare in children. Women are more likely to develop the schizoaffective disorder than men.

How is a schizoaffective disorder diagnosed?

It is often difficult to diagnose schizoaffective disorder because those affected by the illness are often unaware that they are suffering from it. Schizoaffective disorder is diagnosed based on psychiatric criteria and a thorough medical evaluation to rule out other causes. Talking to family or close friends may also help distinguish the schizoaffective disorder from bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or other psychiatric disorders involving changes in behavior, thinking, and mood.

How do I get tested for schizoaffective disorder?

If you or someone you know has one or more symptoms of schizoaffective disorder, the first step in diagnosis is an evaluation by a medical professional, preferably a psychiatrist. Tell your doctor what symptoms you have noticed, and ask them for guidance on what to do next. After evaluating your symptoms and medical history, your doctor may order neuroimaging tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computerized tomography (CT), to rule out other conditions that may mimic symptoms of schizoaffective disorder.


How to treat schizoaffective disorder?

There are numerous resources to help manage symptoms of schizoaffective disorder. Treatment for schizoaffective disorder involves medication and psychosocial therapy.

  • Medications: Antipsychotics and mood-stabilizing medication are most commonly prescribed to treat schizoaffective disorder.
  • Psychosocial therapies: When a patient’s psychosis subsides over time, in addition to being prescribed medication, they might undergo individual therapy, social skills training, and family therapy.

How can I get diagnosed and treated for schizoaffective disorder?

Although there is no direct cure for schizoaffective disorder, research has led to safer, more innovative treatments, which can greatly improve the quality of life. If you believe someone you love or know may suffer from schizoaffective disorder, alert them of your concerns immediately. Seek medical attention from a medical professional at TeleMed2U and consult virtually with a specialized psychiatrist, all from the comfort of your home.


Schizoaffective Disorder. (2003, February 10). WebMD.
Schizoaffective disorder - Diagnosis and treatment - Mayo Clinic. (2019, November 9). Mayo Clinic.


Medically reviewed by:

Dr Roy Kedem, MD

Dr Roy Kedem started his premedical studies at Harvard, and research in genetics and gene sequencing at Harvard, Beth Israel. He attended medical school in the UK at the Cambridge Overseas Medical Program in 1998.  Dr Kedem then completed his residency in Internal Medicine at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons in Stamford, Connecticut and his fellowship in Hospital Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio.

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