Understanding Schizoaffective Disorder

Schizoaffective disorder is a serious and puzzling brain disorder. It combines symptoms of two other disorders—bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. The symptoms are often severe and ongoing. They can disrupt lives and cause great emotional pain. Yet there is reason for hope. Talk to your doctor or mental health professional.

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What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of schizoaffective disorder can vary greatly. People with this disorder may see or hear things that aren’t there (hallucinations). Or they may hold false, fixed beliefs (delusions). These can occur without any mood changes. At times, people with this disorder may seem withdrawn, listless, and remote. They may also have extreme mood swings. They may feel intensely happy for a time. Later, they may be very depressed. In some cases, they might have only lows without the highs. They might also have problems with sleep or a change in appetite. They may become more or less talkative, lose focus in their thinking, or even have thoughts of suicide.

What causes it?

The causes of schizoaffective disorder aren’t fully understood. It is known that this disorder runs in families. Certain chemicals in the brain also play a role. In some people, abuse or neglect may trigger the disorder.

Finding help

Although there is no cure at present, treatment with medications and therapy may be helpful. In addition, many support services exist for people with schizoaffective disorders and their families.


Medications may relieve many symptoms of schizoaffective disorder. These may include antipsychotic medications, antidepressant medications, or mood stabilizers. If your loved one is troubled by medication side effects, tell his or her doctor. Changing the dose or type of medication may help. Encourage your loved one to keep taking his or her medications. Stopping them may cause symptoms to come back.

Supportive therapy

A counselor can offer your loved one advice and support. Social workers may help with work, money, or housing issues. Friends and family members may also need support. Learning more about schizoaffective disorder can help you cope. Learn how best to help with your loved one’s care.

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