Schizoaffective disorder is a chronic and debilitating condition. Though common, it is not a well understood or defined psychological disorder. Is it a type of schizophrenia or a type of mood disorder?
It is a combination of the symptoms of schizophrenia and an affective mood disorder. With each affected individual, the disorder can present with a unique course of symptoms. The focus of this article is a basic overview.
Most clinicians and researchers agree that schizoaffective disorder is a type of schizophrenia. To diagnose this disorder, a person must show the psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia and the mood disturbances associated with an affective mood disorder. (1)
Delusions, hallucinations, disorganized thinking and paranoid thoughts are primary symptoms of schizophrenia. Individuals with schizoaffective disorder experiences periods of primary symptoms of schizophrenia with periods of either major depression or major mania. (2)
The criteria for major depression includes a depressed mood, marked loss of interest in almost all activities, significant weight gain or loss or an increase or decrease in appetite, insomnia or hypersomnia, psychomotor agitation or retardation, fatigue or loss of energy, feeling of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt, diminished level of concentration or indecisiveness and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.(3)
To correctly diagnose major depression, a person must have a total of five of the above symptoms for at least two weeks. One of the symptoms must be depressed mood or loss of interest. (3)
Some individuals with schizoaffective disorder experience periods of schizophrenia with periods of major depression only. This is the depressive subtype of the disorder. (1)
Individuals with bipolar-type schizoaffective disorder can experience the primary symptoms of schizophrenia with manic episodes with or without depressive symptoms or depressive episodes. (1)
The criteria for a manic episode include a distinct period of abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive or irritable mood which lasts at least one week.