How is schizoaffective disorder treated?

Treatment typically involves medication to stabilize the mood and treat the psychotic symptoms. In addition, psychotherapy (a type of counseling) and skills training might be useful for improving interpersonal, social, and coping skills.

  • Medication — The choice of medication depends on the mood disorder associated with the illness. The primary medications used to treat the psychotic symptoms associated with schizophrenia—such as delusions, hallucinations, and disordered thinking—are called anti-psychotics. The mood-related symptoms might be treated with an antidepressant medication or a mood stabilizer such as lithium. These medications might or might not be used in combination with an anti-psychotic medication.
  • Psychotherapy — The goal of therapy is to help the patient learn about the illness, establish goals, and manage everyday problems related to the disorder. Family therapy can help families deal more effectively with a loved one who has schizoaffective disorder, enabling them to contribute to a better outcome for the person.
  • Skills training — This generally focuses on work and social skills, grooming and hygiene, and other day-to-day activities, including money and home management.
  • Hospitalization — Most patients with schizoaffective disorder are treated as outpatients. However, people with particularly severe symptoms, or those in danger of hurting themselves or others might require hospitalization to stabilize their conditions.

What are the side effects of treatment?

Common side effects of lithium include:

  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mild diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Hand tremors
  • Low thyroid hormone

Side effects vary depending on the type of antidepressant medication used, but common side effects include:

  • Sleepiness or trouble sleeping
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Sexual problems (delayed orgasm, erectile dysfunction)

Common side effects of antipsychotic medications include:

  • A slowing down of movements
  • Sedation
  • Weight gain
  • Increased cholesterol and triglycerides
  • Increased risk of diabetes

What are the complications of schizoaffective disorder?

Possible complications include:

  • Refusal to follow treatment, possibly due to the side effects of the medications
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Dangerous or suicidal behavior

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/21/2014.


  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Schizoaffective disorder Accessed 4/21/2014
  • Schizoaffective disorder. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-5. American Psychiatric Publishing, Incorporated; 2013.
  • Shelton RC. Chapter 17. Other Psychotic Disorders. In: Ebert MH, Loosen PT, Nurcombe B, Leckman JF. eds. CURRENT Diagnosis & Treatment: Psychiatry, 2e. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2008. Accessed 4/21/2014.
  • Havemann, J. Center for Behavioral Health. Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio. 4/21/ 2014.

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