Printer Friendly VersionEmail A FriendAdd ThisIncrease Text SizeDecrease Text Size

Schizoaffective disorder

 

Definition

Schizoaffective disorder is a mental condition that causes both a loss of contact with reality (psychosis) and mood problems.

Causes

The exact cause of schizoaffective disorder is unknown. Changes in genes and chemicals in the brain (neurotransmitters) may play a role. Some experts do not believe it is a separate disorder from schizophrenia.

Schizoaffective disorder is believed to be less common than schizophrenia and mood disorders. Women may have the condition more often than men. Schizoaffective disorder tends to be rare in children.

Symptoms

The symptoms of schizoaffective disorder are different in each person. Often, people with schizoaffective disorder seek treatment for problems with mood, daily function, or abnormal thoughts.

Psychosis and mood problems may occur at the same time, or by themselves. The course of the disorder may involve cycles of severe symptoms followed by improvement.

The symptoms of schizoaffective disorder can include:

  • Changes in appetite and energy
  • Disorganized speech that is not logical
  • False beliefs (delusions), such as thinking someone is trying to harm you (paranoia) or thinking that special messages are hidden in common places (delusions of reference)
  • Lack of concern with hygiene or grooming
  • Mood that is either too good, or depressed or irritable
  • Problems sleeping
  • Problems with concentration
  • Sadness or hopelessness
  • Seeing or hearing things that aren't there (hallucinations)
  • Social isolation
  • Speaking so quickly that others cannot interrupt you
Signs and tests

Your health care provider will do a psychiatric evaluation to find out about your behavior and symptoms. You may be referred to a psychiatrist to confirm the diagnosis.

To be diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, you must have psychotic symptoms during a period of normal mood for at least 2 weeks.

The combination of psychotic and mood symptoms in schizoaffective disorder can be seen in other illnesses, such as bipolar disorder. Extreme disturbance in mood is an important part of schizoaffective disorder.

Your health care provider should consider and rule out medical, psychiatric, and drug-related conditions that cause psychotic or mood symptoms before making a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder. For example, psychotic or mood disorder symptoms can occur in people who:

  • Abuse cocaine, amphetamines, or phencyclidine (PCP)
  • Have seizure disorders
  • Take steroid medications
Support Groups

Expectations (prognosis)

People with schizoaffective disorder have a greater chance of going back to their previous level of function than do people with most other psychotic disorders. However, long-term treatment is often needed, and results can vary from person to person.

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care or mental health provider if you or someone you know is experiencing any of the following:

  • Depression with feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
  • Inability to care for basic personal needs
  • Increase in energy and involvement in risky behavior that is sudden and not normal for you (for instance, going days without sleeping and feeling no need for sleep)
  • Strange or unusual thoughts or perceptions
  • Symptoms that get worse or do not improve with treatment
  • Thoughts of suicide or of harming others
Complications

Complications are similar to those for schizophrenia and major mood disorders. These include:

  • Abuse of drugs in an attempt to self-medicate
  • Problems following medical treatment and therapy
  • Problems due to manic behavior (for example, spending sprees, overly sexual behavior)
  • Suicidal behavior
Treatments

Treatment can vary. In general, your health care provider will prescribe medications to improve your mood and treat psychosis.

  • Antipsychotic medications are used to treat psychotic symptoms.
  • Antidepressant medications or "mood stabilizers" may be prescribed to improve mood.

Talk therapy can help with creating plans, solving problems, and maintaining relationships. Group therapy can help with social isolation.

Support and work training may be helpful for work skills, relationships, money management, and living situations.

Prevention

References

Freudenreich O, Weiss AP, Goff DC. Psychosis and schizophrenia. In: Stern TA, Rosenbaum JF, Fava M, Biederman J, Rauch SL, eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier;2008:chap 28.


Review Date: 2/7/2010
Reviewed By: David B. Merrill, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch).
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2009 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
MAIMONIDES
MEDICAL CENTER


Home Page
Why Choose Us
Donations
Website Terms of Use
PATIENT
INFORMATION


Visitor & Patient Info
Patient Portal
We Speak Your Language
Patient Privacy
Contact Us
KEY
INFORMATION


Find a Physician
Medical Services
Maimonides In the News
Directions & Parking
FOR HEALTH
PROFESSIONALS


Medical Education
Career Opportunities
Nurses & Physicians
Staff Intranet Access
Maimonides Medical Center    |    4802 Tenth Avenue    |    Brooklyn, NY 11219    |    718.283.6000    |