Schizoaffective Disorder Causes & Effects

The signs, symptoms, and effects of schizoaffective disorder can look different for each person impacted. Learning about schizoaffective disorder is one of the first steps toward healing.

Understanding Schizoaffective Disorder

Learn about schizoaffective disorder

When an individual suffers from psychosis, yet experiences a depressive or manic mood disturbance after at least two weeks or more of battling delusions or hallucinations, reveals a likely struggle schizoaffective disorder. Classified as a schizophrenia spectrum disorder, this condition embodies the symptomology of schizophrenia and changes in mood that are similar to those of a depressive or bipolar disorder.

Those afflicted with schizoaffective disorder are known experience a wide range of negative consequences if treatment is not sought. The psychotic symptoms can hinder a person’s ability to decipher what is real and what is not, thus compromising an individual’s efforts to function well in social, academic, or occupational settings. The mood disturbances that are also part of this disorder can prevent a person from forming and/or maintaining healthy relationships with family members, peers, or coworkers depending on the type of this condition that is present. And while a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder can change to a mood disorder or schizophrenia depending on the type of symptoms that persist over time, it is imperative that care is received in order to minimize the destruction that schizoaffective disorder can bring about in a person’s life.


Schizoaffective disorder statistics

Schizoaffective disorder is said to be less common than other schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders. In fact, the Fifth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders states that this condition is approximately .33 percent as prevalent as schizophrenia. Generally speaking, true prevalence of this disorder is said to be nearly .30 percent, with more females suffering from schizoaffective disorder than males. Lastly, research shows that females are more likely to suffer from the depressive type of this condition.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for schizoaffective disorder

Research has concluded that those with a family history of schizoaffective disorder, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder, namely among those who are first-degree relatives, are at a heightened risk for also experiencing symptoms synonymous with schizoaffective disorder. In light of this finding, it has been concluded that the most influential factor for this condition is a person’s genetics.

Risk Factors:

  • Family history of a schizophrenia spectrum disorder
  • Family history of bipolar disorder

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of schizoaffective disorder

Depending on whether or not a person with schizoaffective disorder is diagnosed with the bipolar (involving manic episodes) or depressive type of the disorder, the symptoms of schizoaffective disorder can vary. Additionally, the symptoms of this condition can also differ depending on whether or not the individual is experiencing a single episode of a mood disturbance or multiple episodes. The below listed symptoms are those that would elicit a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder provided they are not occurring because of an ingested substance:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Catatonia
  • Disorganized behaviors
  • Speaking with incoherent speech
  • Pressured speech / being talkative (bipolar type)
  • Excessive movement (bipolar type)
  • Slow movement (depressive type)
  • Engaging in risky behaviors (bipolar type)

Physical symptoms:

  • Flat affect (little to no expression to one’s face)
  • Excessive energy (bipolar type)
  • Lethargy (depressive type)
  • Little need for sleep (bipolar type)
  • Weight gain or loss (depressive type)
  • Sleeping excessively (depressive type)

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Racing thoughts (bipolar type)
  • Inability to concentrate or focus
  • Suicidal ideation

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Irritability
  • Feelings of grandiosity (bipolar type)
  • Feeling sad (depressive type)
  • Feelings of hopelessness (depressive type)
  • Feelings of worthlessness (depressive type)

Psychotic symptoms, such as delusions or hallucination, are present for 14 days or more when a mood episode, either manic or depressive, is not occurring. Furthermore, the mood disturbances associated with this condition are almost always present when the individual is not experiencing psychotic symptoms.


Effects of schizoaffective disorder

Allowing the symptoms of schizoaffective disorder to remain untreated can elicit a number of adverse effects that can be far-reaching across several aspects of a person’s life. Such negative effects can be further exacerbated should the individual suffer from an untreated co-occurring mental disorder at the same time. The below listed consequences are likely to occur should treatment for schizoaffective disorder be delayed or not sought all together:

  • Compromised ability to form meaningful relationships
  • Demise of important interpersonal relationships
  • Poor work performance
  • Loss of employment
  • Chronic unemployment
  • Worsening of existing mental health symptoms
  • Onset of additional mental health concerns
  • Substance abuse which could lead to addiction and/or chemical dependency
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Suicide attempts
  • Death as a result of suicide

Co-Occurring Disorders

Schizoaffective disorder and co-occurring disorders

Adolescents and adults who are diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder often struggle with the symptoms of other mental disorders at the same time. Should a person with this condition seek treatment, it is possible that he or she will meet diagnostic criteria for the following additional disorders:

  • Substance use disorders
  • Anxiety disorders

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