What is Schizoaffective Disorder? How is It Different from Schizophrenia?

Have you ever wondered: “What is schizoaffective disorder?”

Many people know the word “schizophrenia,” though they may have mistaken views about what it is. Yet, only some people have ever heard of schizoaffective disorder, and even fewer know what it is and how it is different from schizophrenia.

What Is Schizoaffective Disorder?

Schizoaffective disorder is a mental disease that usually begins affecting a sufferer in their late teen years or early adulthood. It is characterized by abnormal thought processes and unstable emotions. The diagnosis is made when the patient has features of both schizophrenia and a mood disorder (either bipolar disorder or depression) with psychotic symptoms that do not appear to be caused by schizophrenia. For that reason, doctors often confuse it with bipolar disorder with psychotic features.

As a matter of fact, the confusing symptoms of this illness frequently lead to a misdiagnosis. Since there is no particular laboratory test for schizoaffective disorder, doctors have to rely on conducting assessment interviews that are specifically designed to diagnose this mental disease.

Symptoms of Schizoaffective Disorder

Symptoms can be very diverse from one person to another. They may be mild or severe and can vary in duration. For a positive diagnosis, symptoms of schizophrenia must be present, while at the same time episodes of mania or major depression, or a mix of both, must occur.

            Schizophrenia – delusions, hallucinations, disorganized thinking, strange or unusual behavior, lethargy, lack of emotions in facial expressions and speech, poor motivation, speech and communication problems, bizarre thinking, inappropriate emotional reactions, and paranoia.
            Depression – poor appetite, weight changes, sleeping problems, agitation or restlessness, constant fatigue, loss of interest in everyday activities, sadness, feeling worthless or hopeless, guilt or self-blame, trouble thinking clearly or concentrating, complaining of various physical symptoms, and thoughts of death and suicide.
            Mania – talking fast or compulsive talking, being overactive, rapid or racing thoughts, sleeplessness, agitation, easily distracted, being conceited, self-destructive or dangerous behavior, susceptible to buying sprees, prone to suddenly go from cheerful to irritable, indiscreet sexual advances, foolish investments, paranoia and rage.
Causes of Schizoaffective Disorder
As of yet, scientists are not exactly sure what causes this illness. But they suspect such things as:
            Genetics/heredity – A person can inherit the tendency to develop the disease from their parents.
            Brain structure/function – A sufferer may have problems with parts of the brain that manage mood and thinking.
            Environment – A viral infection, troubled relationships, or very stressful situations may trigger the disorder in people who are at risk.
How Schizoaffective Disorder Differs from Schizophrenia

On the surface, they seem very similar. They both are categorized as psychotic disorders with mental symptoms – like hallucinations, delusions, etc. – at their core. However, there are a few ways that schizoaffective disorder is different from schizophrenia.

            The existence of mood episodes – A sufferer can experience severe mood changes – either from mania or depression – which often last more than fifty percent of the whole duration of the illness. People with schizophrenia usually don’t have any type of depression. If there are ever incidents of mood episodes, they’re relatively brief.
            The course of psychotic symptoms – The mental symptoms of schizoaffective disorder are more episodic (coming and going), while the mental symptoms of schizophrenia are more persistent. However, that can vary in some sufferers.
            The correlation between mood symptoms and psychotic symptoms – Since mental symptoms are present most of the time in schizophrenia, any occurring mood symptoms overlap them. In schizoaffective disorder, the mood symptoms can overlap the mental symptoms, but don’t have to. Mood symptoms can occur without any psychotic symptoms.

Schizoaffective disorder cannot be cured or prevented. The importance of getting treatment for this disorder as soon as possible can’t be overemphasized. Often a sufferer has great difficulty adjusting to normal life. But with medication and therapy they can keep symptoms under control and manage their condition in everyday situations.

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