Schizoaffective disorder is a mental illness categorized under schizophrenia. It involves two parts: 1) a mood component – either bipolar (mania and depression) or depression alone; and 2) psychosis (what people with schizophrenia experience). Because of these two parts, treatment is multifaceted and managing the illness is challenging.
It is important for the person with schizoaffective disorder, as well as his close friends and family, to understand the different parts of the disorder, in order to assist with treatment and management of the illness, along with establishing healthier existences and relationships.
The first part, psychosis, can involve several symptoms: delusions (believing things that aren’t true), hallucinations (experiencing sensations that aren’t real), disorganized thinking, odd or unusual behavior, slow movements, lack of emotional expression in the face and voice, low motivation, and difficulty communicating (MedicineNet). The person with schizoaffective disorder can have some or all of these symptoms. Because his reality is distorted, it is very difficult for him to function and work.
The second part, is depressive symptoms, whether in combination with mania or alone. Depressive symptoms are debilitating; they include: lack of (or increased) appetite, weight loss or gain, changes in typical sleep patterns, restlessness or agitation, low energy, disinterest in usual activities, feeling worthless or hopeless, guilt, inability to think clearly, and suicidal thoughts (MedicineNet). Depressive symptoms are difficult to tolerate, but they can be treated with a combination of medication and therapy, which will lift the person’s depressed mood.
Mania sometimes accompanies depression for people with schizoaffective disorder. Mania is at the opposite end of depression, and symptoms include: increased activity (work, social, or sexual), talking more than usual, racing thoughts, less need for sleep, agitation, increased self-confidence, easily distracted, and excessive and destructive behavior (MedicineNet). When manic, sometimes people can stay awake for long periods, spend more money than they can afford, or drive unsafely.
Like psychotic and depressive symptoms, people with mania have a distorted perception. Sometimes they end up dealing with the consequences of their behavior after the manic episode, or they can quickly fall into depression. When mania and depression are the combined mood component, the person can get tossed between the manic highs and the depressive lows in a short time, causing each mood state to feel even more extreme.
Schizoaffective disorder is a serious mental illness that needs to be treated by a psychiatrist. It is also helpful for the person to see a psychologist to help talk through daily or weekly struggles. People with schizoaffective disorder do not have to remain isolated, because there is help out in the world.
The more informed the family and friends are about the person’s illness, the more supportive and helpful they can be. The person with schizoaffective should also educate himself about his condition, because with a greater understanding, therapeutic techniques will be more effective. It is also essential for him to keep his doctors updated on what he is experiencing for more improved treatment.
With all of these options available, the person with schizoaffective can live a more normal and positive life.