Schizoaffective disorder is a mental illness that has features of both schizophrenia and a mood disorder (typically depression or bipolar disorder). It affects an estimated one in 100 people, about half of whom are women and two-thirds of whom are under 50 years of age.
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Symptoms of Schizoaffective Disorder
Individuals with schizoaffective disorder may experience hallucinations, delusions, disorganized thinking, lack of concern about hygiene and other symptoms associated with schizophrenia, as well as depressive symptoms, such as hopelessness, guilt, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, difficulty concentrating, social isolation, suicidal thoughts, and depressed mood. Features of bipolar disorder also may be present, including increased energy, distractibility, accelerated speech, impulsivity and reduced sleep – all symptoms of mania.
Schizoaffective disorder is diagnosed when a person has hallucinations or delusions for at least two weeks even in the absence of mood disorder symptoms. The symptoms of schizoaffective disorder vary from person to person. Some people have mood problems and psychosis at the same time, while others have these symptoms interchangeably. The symptoms can be continuous and severe, but more often they alternate with periods of improved outlook.
Due to overlapping symptoms, schizoaffective disorder is sometimes misdiagnosed in people with depression, borderline personality disorder and other mental illnesses. People who use certain drugs, such as cocaine, PCP, amphetamines or steroid medications, as well as those with seizure disorders, may have symptoms that resemble schizoaffective disorder. Other issues, such as substance abuse, schizophrenia, depression and bipolar disorder, are more common in people with schizoaffective disorder.
Causes of Schizoaffective Disorder
The causes of schizoaffective disorder are unknown. Scientists believe genetics, environmental factors, brain chemistry, and exposure to toxins, illness or birth complications may play a role.
Treatment for Schizoaffective Disorder
With treatment, people with schizoaffective disorder can have a good quality of life. Medication and counseling are the core elements of treatment for schizoaffective disorder. Depending on the individual’s symptoms, doctors may prescribe antipsychotics, mood-stabilizers or antidepressants to manage symptoms.
At Malibu Vista, treatment also includes family counseling, support groups and psychotherapy to combat isolation, improve relationships and normalize negative thought patterns. Clients also build essential social and independent living skills. When schizoaffective disorder occurs along with substance abuse, integrated treatment for co-occurring disorders is provided.
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