Schizoaffective Disorder

Schizoaffective Disorder

Causes, Symptoms and Treatment for Schizoaffective Disorder

What is Schizoaffective Disorder? This is one of the more common and disabling mental illnesses. This illness manifests itself through a combination of symptoms of schizophrenia and an affective (mood) disorder. Today, most agree that this disorder is a form of schizophrenia.

The diagnosis entails that a person needs to have primary symptoms of schizophrenia (such as delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, disorganized behavior) along with a period of time with symptoms of major depression or a manic episode. There may be two subtypes of schizoaffective disorder:

(a) Depressive - characterized by major depressive episodes only, and
(b) Bipolar - characterized by manic episodes with or without depressive symptoms or depressive episodes

Diagnosing Schizoaffective disorder:

Differentiating schizoaffective disorder from schizophrenia and from mood disorder is difficult. The mood symptoms in schizoaffective disorder are more prominent, and last for a substantially longer time than those in schizophrenia. Schizoaffective disorder may be distinguished from a mood disorder by the fact that delusions or hallucinations must be present in persons with schizoaffective disorder for at least two weeks in the absence of prominent mood symptoms. The diagnosis of a person with schizophrenia or mood disorder may change later to that of schizoaffective disorder, or vice versa.

Treatments for Schizoaffective disorder:

The biggest challenge to treating this disorder is to convince the patient the he or she has it. Most people who suffer from schizoaffective disorder do not have any insight into their illness which makes treatment impossible; except for court ordered injections or oral treatment. One of the more effective treatments of schizoaffective disorder is a combination of drug treatment and psychosocial interventions. Medications include antipsychotics combined with antidepressants or mood stabilizers. The newer atypical antipsychotics are safer than the older typical or conventional antipsychotics  in terms of parkinsonism and tardive dyskinesia. The newer drugs may also have better effects on mood symptoms. Like most drugs these medications have some side effects, especially at higher doses. The side effects may include excessive sleepiness, weight gain, elevation of liver enzymes, and sometimes diabetes. Different antipsychotic drugs have somewhat different side effect profiles. Changing from one antipsychotic to another one may help if a person with schizoaffective disorder does not respond well or develops distressing side effects with the first medication. The same principle applies to the use of antidepressants or mood stabilizers.

Studies suggests that cognitive behavior therapy, brief psychotherapy, and social skills training are likely to have a beneficial effect. Most people with schizoaffective disorder require long-term therapy with a combination of medications and psychosocial interventions in order to avoid relapses, and maintain an appropriate level of functioning and quality of life.

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This article is for informational purposes only and not to be used in diagnosing or treating any illness