Psychiatric diagnoses

Schizoaffective disorder

A person with schizoaffective disorder suffers from both psychotic episodes and mood swings. If the illness is allowed to carry on freely, it can be perceived as confusing and dramatic and pose high risks. The healthcare service is there to help at times like this.

What is schizoaffective disorder?

Schizoaffective disorder can be understood as an intermediate form of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The progression of the disease is often periodic, as with bipolar disorder, with healthy periods between the episodes of illness.

The illness has symptoms similar to bipolar disorder, such as depression or pathological exhilaration, and often severe anxiety. It also has symptoms that resemble schizophrenia, such as bizarre delusions and hallucinations. The symptoms may be dramatic, consisting of impulsive suicidal acts.

How does this affect a person’s life?

During the periods of illness, the sick person is usually psychotic. Due to the dramatic symptoms, medical treatment and hospital care are often necessary, at least for shorter periods. The periods of illness may be prolonged, lasting for months, but medication usually helps. Medication may also reduce the risk of new episodes of the illness so that the person can continue to live a normal life.

Can things improve?

The progression of the disease may be disabling and leave deep traces on a person’s self-esteem. It is important to understand that you are not alone and that effective help is available. The more knowledge the sick person receives about the illness, the better they will be able to manage it in their life.

If you suspect that you or a relative have symptoms of psychosis and mood changes, you should seek care. Trying to manage on your own may pose risks to both the sick person and those around them. To get help, contact a healthcare centre or a youth or adult psychiatric clinic.

Diagnosis and treatment

Establishing a diagnosis may be difficult and may take a long time. This is due above all to the difficulty of distinguishing between schizoaffective disorder and schizophrenia, which requires a different type of treatment.

Once a diagnosis has been established, treatment may consist of antipsychotic medications as well as a mood stabliser such as lithium. These are usually effective and also reduce the risk of relapse. Since the disease is often chronic, the treatment is long term. Support through conversation and psychotherapy are good ways to understand your illness and be able to deal with it better.