Schizoaffective disorder is a mental health condition with symptoms of schizophrenia and a mood disorder. People with schizoaffective disorder may experience depression, mania and psychosis. Schizoaffective disorder treatment often includes therapy and medications. This combination can improve symptoms and quality of life.
Schizoaffective disorder is a mental health condition that includes symptoms of both schizophrenia and mood disorders. Schizophrenia affects the way you think, act, perceive reality and express emotions. Mood disorders change your feelings, energy levels and behaviors.
There’s no cure for schizoaffective disorder, but treatment can help manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life.
There are two types of schizoaffective disorder, and they’re based on what mood disorder symptoms you experience:
Schizoaffective disorder is rare. One study in Finland estimated that 3 in every 1,000 people (0.3%) will develop schizoaffective disorder in their lifetime. It’s difficult to know exactly how many people have this condition because it’s challenging to diagnose. The symptoms of schizoaffective disorder overlap with other mental health conditions. A misdiagnosis is possible but less likely.
The symptoms of schizoaffective disorder symptoms fall into the following categories:
These symptoms vary from person to person and range from mild to severe. Symptoms usually begin in your late teens or early adulthood. It rarely begins in childhood or in adults over age 50.
Common psychosis symptoms of schizoaffective disorder include:
Common mood symptoms include:
Symptoms that affect your mood may lead to suicidal ideation (suicidal thoughts). Seek immediate help if you experience this by contacting a healthcare provider or the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by calling 988 (U.S.). Someone is available to talk with you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911 or your local emergency services number.
We’re not sure of the exact cause of schizoaffective disorder. Researchers believe several factors may contribute to a diagnosis:
Anyone can develop schizoaffective disorder. You may be more at risk of developing this condition if you:
You may be more at risk of triggering schizoaffective disorder symptoms if you:
Complications of schizoaffective disorder can be life-threatening and include:
In addition, you may have trouble with the following if you have schizoaffective disorder:
Schizoaffective disorder is challenging to diagnose, as symptoms closely resemble other mental health conditions.
The first step in making a diagnosis is speaking up. If you’re concerned about a friend or loved one who shows symptoms of schizophrenia and a mood disorder, have a conversation with that person. It can be difficult for someone who experiences a mental health condition to reach out for help on their own or know that they need help. Calmly share your concerns and offer support. It helps to surround yourself with people you know and trust so you can get the care you need.
There are no lab tests available to diagnose schizoaffective disorder. If you see a primary care physician first, they may offer tests to rule out medical conditions with similar symptoms before recommending you visit a mental health specialist.
Mental health professionals use specially designed interview and assessment tools to diagnose mental health conditions like schizoaffective disorder. They’ll listen to you (or a loved one) describe your symptoms. They’ll also take note of your speech and behavior.
Providers determine if your symptoms and behaviors match a specific mental health condition in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). The American Psychiatric Association DSM-5 is the reference book for mental health conditions.
The diagnostic criteria or the information that the DSM-5 describes for schizoaffective disorder include:
Treatment for schizoaffective disorder involves the combination of:
Your provider will determine the right medicine for you based on the type of schizoaffective disorder you have. Three common medication types include:
Your provider may prescribe more than one type of medication to treat your condition as best as possible.
Psychotherapy is a form of talk therapy. During therapy, you’ll talk to a trained mental health professional. The goal of psychotherapy is to:
Family therapy is another form of psychotherapy. A therapist can help families learn how to support their loved one in addition to how the loved one can contribute to improving their mental health.
Skills training is a type of counseling that helps you take care of yourself. It often focuses on:
Many people find skills training a valuable addition to their treatment plan for schizoaffective disorder.
Not always. Every situation is different. You may participate in outpatient treatment where you go to a clinic or hospital for treatment during the day and then return home in the evening. If you experience severe symptoms that put you at risk of harming yourself or others, a hospital stay may be necessary to help you feel better.
With continued treatment of both medications and psychotherapy, your symptoms may go into remission. This is a period of time when you don’t have symptoms, but this doesn’t happen overnight. It can take several months to years before symptoms stabilize. Not everyone diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder goes into remission. Medication is usually continued even when symptoms go into remission.
There’s no known way to prevent schizoaffective disorder. You may be able to prevent worsening symptoms or symptom triggers by reducing your stress and continuing treatment as your healthcare provider recommends.
There’s no cure for schizoaffective disorder. Each person’s experience with the condition is different. Your healthcare provider can give you the best information about your outlook specifically.
Many people see positive outcomes if the condition receives an early diagnosis and treatment when symptoms first happen. Prompt treatment helps you avoid or reduce frequent relapses and hospitalizations.
This lifelong illness can affect all areas of your life. You may find it difficult to participate at work or school. It also affects your relationships with family, friends and loved ones. Treatment can help you get back on your feet and into a place of stability.
Perhaps you noticed signs of schizoaffective disorder in yourself or a loved one. The first step is to talk to a healthcare provider. Getting a diagnosis and starting treatment as soon as possible can improve symptoms and your quality of life. Be sure to follow your provider’s treatment instructions:
If you or a loved one are in danger of harming yourself or others, get help right away. Go to an emergency room, call 911 or call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988. This national network of local crisis centers provides free, confidential emotional support to people who need it. It’s available 24/7.
If you or a loved one have schizoaffective disorder, ask your provider:
While schizoaffective disorder may be challenging to diagnose, help is available. You might first notice symptoms that interfere with your daily routine. Then, they may affect your interpersonal relationships and how you feel overall. This can make getting out of bed challenging each day. Your healthcare provider can help you find a treatment plan that works best to manage your symptoms. It usually involves both medications and therapy. Stay in contact with your care team and let them know if you experience any new or worsening symptoms. Always reach out for help if you’re thinking about suicide. You don’t need to be in a crisis to call the Suicide Lifeline at 988. Someone is available to help you at any time.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/03/2023.
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