Causes, Signs, & Effects of Schizoaffective Disorder

Are you concerned that you or a loved one may be struggling with schizoaffective disorder? Learn about the causes, signs, and effects to identify whether professional treatment may be necessary.

Understanding Schizoaffective Disorder

Learn about schizoaffective disorder

Psychosis, hallucinations and delusions, and manic, hypomanic, or depressive states are conditions that may indicate schizoaffective disorder. This mental health condition resembles a combination of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. These symptoms must last at least two weeks or more for an individual to be diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. Without treatment, schizoaffective disorder is likely to cause significant impairment in daily living for the affected individual.

Because schizoaffective disorder combines distortions of reality with powerful mood states, symptoms can be dangerous to both the individual and his or her loved ones. For example, the individual may have difficulty recognizing reality from imagination. In some cases, this may result in uncharacteristically impulsive behavior. In addition to being potentially dangerous, this disorder can negatively affect an individual’s personal life and career.

Individuals with schizoaffective disorder may experience extreme emotions and mood changes that will lead to difficulties dealing with relationships, family matters, and friendships; they may also find it hard to socialize, or even work toward a goal. Delusions and hallucinations may cause the individual to suddenly perceive danger when there is none, and episodes of mania may even make that person appear to have unusual strength or energy. If left untreated, symptoms are likely to become more severe. If an individual is given help, he or she can experience increased quality of life.


Schizoaffective disorder statistics

Studies conducted by the American Psychiatric Association show that schizoaffective disorder cases occur less frequently than do schizophrenia and many other mental conditions. This mental health disorder affects only about 0.3% of those who are diagnosed with schizophrenia-type disorders. Women are at higher risk of developing this condition than men are. Women are also shown to have higher cases of depression with schizoaffective disorder, while men are at higher risk of symptoms that are similar to bipolar disorder.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for schizoaffective disorder

Genetics may lead to a higher risk for the development of schizoaffective disorder. Environmental conditions also correlate to a higher risk, albeit more rarely than heredity.

Genetic: A family history of schizophrenia spectrum disorder poses a high risk for an individual to develop schizoaffective disorder. Individuals who have immediate family members such as parents or siblings who have a history of schizophrenia are at a higher risk to develop schizoaffective disorder.

Risk Factors:

  • Family members and immediate family with a history of schizophrenia spectrum disorder
  • Family members or immediate family with a bipolar disorder history

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of schizoaffective disorder

The symptoms that signify if an individual has schizoaffective disorder may vary in each case. Mood swings and mania or depression are common signs, although the manner and occurrence of these episodes may differ. For example, one individual may only experience severe depression while another may also experience manic or hypomanic (mildly manic) episodes. There are also other ways to identify schizoaffective disorder:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Individual is easily distracted, disorganized and is unable to organize actions and thoughts
  • Catatonia or being inactive
  • Movements may become slow
  • Unintelligible speech
  • Erratic and fast movements or talking during a manic episode
  • Spontaneous, reckless movements or actions

Physical symptoms:

  • Lack of concern and interest in personal care
  • Drastic change in weight
  • Sleeping excessively
  • Lack of facial expression or indication that one is affected
  • Lack of sleep or inability to sleep during a manic episode
  • Being overly energetic (during a manic episode)

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Inability to differentiate reality from delusions
  • Seeing, hearing, and/or feeling things that are not really there
  • Having unrealistic thoughts
  • Spontaneous and erratic changing of thoughts (during a manic episode)
  • Suicidal tendencies

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Easily irritated or angered
  • Feeling hopeless, helpless, and experiencing severe depression
  • May think that one has superhuman abilities and strengths leading to reckless actions (during a manic episode)


Effects of schizoaffective disorder

An individual who is demonstrating signs of schizoaffective disorder should be given immediate help. If left untreated, this condition can lead to other mental health conditions and drastically affect an individual’s life entirely. It can even lead to physical harm and suicidal tendencies. It can also lead to the following effects:

  • Drug use and addiction
  • Low performance at work, daily tasks, and career
  • Loss of job, income and career
  • Conflicts with friends, family, and personal relationships
  • Unable to feel and invest emotions
  • High risks of developing other mental health conditions
  • Suicide attempts

Co-Occurring Disorders

Schizoaffective disorder and co-occurring disorders

Schizoaffective disorder may also increase a person’s risk for developing the following co-occurring mental health disorders:

  • Substance use disorder
  • Anxiety disorder
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