Causes & Effects of Schizoaffective Disorder

Understanding Schizoaffective Disorder

Learn about Schizoaffective Disorder Treatment

Schizoaffective disorder is an extremely complex and severe mental illness that can cause an onset of symptoms that resemble schizophrenia and other mood disorders (most commonly bipolar disorder). Some of these symptoms can include hallucinations, delusions, depression, and mania.

This specific disorder is still widely debated amongst researchers, mainly due to the fact that it consists of such a wide variety of symptoms. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), those with schizoaffective disorder typically present with psychotic symptoms as the primary issue, with manic and depressive symptoms serving as a secondary issue.

Schizoaffective disorder can be tremendously challenging to live with, as the symptoms that one can experience when afflicted with this disorder can be debilitating. Thankfully, treatment is available for those with schizoaffective disorder so that symptoms can become more manageable and life can become easier.


Statistics about Schizoaffective Disorder

According to the Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Centers (MIRECC), nearly one in every two hundred people (or the equivalent of 0.5%) of people will develop schizoaffective disorder. MIRECC also reports the following statistics:

  • Most individuals who have schizoaffective disorder have been previously diagnosed with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.
  • Schizoaffective disorder often presents itself in people between ages sixteen and thirty.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and Risk Factors for Schizoaffective Disorder

Several genetic and environmental factors are said to play a role in the development of schizoaffective disorder, including the following:

  • Having a first-degree relative with schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia
  • Developmental delays
  • Exposure to toxins or viral illnesses while in utero
  • Birth complications
  • Experiencing chronic abuse and neglect
  • The presence of other mental illnesses
  • Substance abuse

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Schizoaffective Disorder

While there is still debate regarding the specific symptoms that those with schizoaffective disorder will present, most researchers agree that symptoms will mimic those of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Symptoms will vary from person to person, and can depend on factors such as personality traits, genetic makeup, and a history of substance abuse. The most common symptoms of this condition include the following:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Alternating between slow and rapid movements
  • Social isolation
  • Catatonic behaviors
  • Impaired social functioning
  • Impaired occupational functioning
  • Self-harm
  • Disorganized speech or the absence of speech entirely
  • Disorganized behaviors
  • Attempting suicide

Physical symptoms:

  • Significant weight gain or weight loss
  • Changes in physical appearance (e.g. no longer caring how one looks)
  • Lacking emotional expression
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Changes in sleep and/or eating patterns

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Difficulty planning
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Disorganized thinking
  • Memory impairments
  • Racing thoughts

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Major episodes of depression
  • Major episodes of mania
  • Grandiose self-esteem or poor self-esteem
  • Extreme paranoia
  • Poor motivation
  • Suicidal ideation

Lasting Effects

Effects of Schizoaffective Disorder

If schizoaffective disorder remains untreated, or is misdiagnosed (which is unfortunately common), the effects of its presence can be extremely detrimental. Some of these effects can include the following:

  • Family discord
  • Significant health problems
  • Financial instability
  • Loss of significant relationships
  • Self-harming behaviors
  • Substance abuse
  • Unemployment
  • Suicidal ideation and/or behaviors
  • Early death

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-Occurring Substance Abuse or Mental Health Issues

Those who are grappling with schizoaffective disorder have the potential to also be struggling with symptoms of other mental illnesses. This is known as having a co-occurring disorder. Some of the most common co-occurring disorders to present themselves alongside schizoaffective disorder include the following:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Substance use disorders
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
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