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Schizoaffective Disorder

What is Schizoaffective Disorder?

Schizoaffective Disorder is a condition that features symptoms of schizophrenia paired with symptoms of a mood disorder. The symptoms that manifest differ depending on the nature of the mood disorder. While those diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder-depressive type will experience feelings of depression such as emptiness or worthlessness, those diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder- bipolar type will experience symptoms of mania, such as racing thoughts, euphoria, or increased impulsivity. More generally, people with schizoaffective disorder may experience visual or auditory hallucinations, false beliefs that persist despite contradictory evidence (delusions), and disorganized thinking, regardless of the subtype. In order to be diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder rather than schizophrenia or a mood disorder, a person must experience symptoms of a mood disorder, either mania or depression, while simultaneously showing symptoms of schizophrenia, they must have an ongoing delusion or hallucination in the absence of mood disorder symptoms, and they must show symptoms of a major mood episode for the majority of the total duration of their illness. Lastly, these symptoms must persist without substance abuse, indicating that no drug is responsible.

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What are the causes of Schizoaffective Disorder?

The exact cause of schizoaffective disorder is currently unknown, but likely includes both physiological and environmental factors. Studies have shown that schizoaffective disorder is inherited, and can run in families. The development of this disorder can also be triggered by stress or substance abuse. In particular, psychoactive substances such as LSD have been linked to its onset. Ongoing studies are examining possible correlations between schizoaffective disorder and the brain’s chemistry and structure.

What is the prognosis for Schizoaffective Disorder?

Because schizoaffective disorder is comparatively less well studied, many approaches to treating this condition are borrowed from prescribed treatments for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Medications, including mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and antipsychotics, are commonly prescribed to manage symptoms. Additionally, therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and family therapy are used in combination to help people with schizoaffective disorder understand their diagnosis and develop life skills.

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