Schizoaffective disorder is a mental health disorder where an individual experiences a mixture of schizophrenia symptoms (hallucinations, paranoia or delusions) and of mood disorder symptoms (mania or depression).
The majority of individuals with schizoaffective disorder are loners and have difficulty holding jobs or attending school. Most end up living in a group homes or in a psychiatric facility. The symptoms of schizoaffective disorder are variable and range from paranoia, delusions, strange perceptions, hallucinations, disorganized thinking and paranoid thoughts — as well as a mood disturbance, such as depressed or manic mood. Other features may include bizarre thoughts like suicide or homicide, deficits in attention and memory, lack of concern for hygiene, change in appetite and profound sleep disturbances. These individuals are very antisocial and are usually shunned by people around them. Most of these individuals are simply not able to function in society because the variety of symptoms which can be quite intense.
In many cases, the psychotic features and mood disturbances may appear in the same setting or may cycle on regular intervals. The major problem with schizoaffective individuals is that they rarely seek treatment on their own; most are brought to medical attention by concerned family members or law enforcement.
The cause of schizoaffective disorder is not known but believed to be due to an imbalance of certain brain neurotransmitters. Some experts speculate that exposure to chemicals during pregnancy or a viral illness may be responsible for the illness.
Like most psychiatric disorders, diagnosis is based on clinical features. Most physicians will also perform laboratory tests to ensure that the effects are not due to illicit drugs or any other medical disorder like HIV, temporal lobe epilepsy, hypothyroidism or prolonged steroid usage.
Individuals with schizoaffective disorder usually require both medications and psychotherapy. Both anti psychotics and mood stabilizing drugs are used to treat these individuals. Psychotherapy can help diminish distorted or negative thoughts, improve social skills and boost self-confidence. Family or group therapy has been found to be more effective in helping people deal with real life issues. Family group therapies also provide a decrease in social isolation and helps maintain a check on the psychotic episodes.
The overall prognosis for patients with schizoaffective disorder is better than those with schizophrenia but treatment is life long. Unfortunately, most people tend to develop severe depression or mania and eventually become non-complaint with therapy. Many end up with legal problems and remain confined to psychiatric facilities.