What is Schizoaffective Disorder?

A serious and chronic mental health condition schizoaffective disorder is where a person suffers from a combination of symptoms of psychosis, such as hallucinations and delusions; as well as a mood disorder such as depression and mania.  It is difficult to say exactly how many people are affected by the disorder, as it is often misdiagnosed as symptoms are very similar to conditions such as depression, bipolar and schizophrenia.  Left untreated it can be very difficult for people to function on a daily basis without help and support.  People with the disorder are often at a higher risk of social isolation, family conflicts, substance abuse and anxiety disorder.  This can lead to serious health problems, unemployment, financial problems and homelessness.


As with many serious mental health conditions there is no known singular cause for schizoaffective disorder, it is however believed that both genetics and environmental factors contribute to its development.  There is a greater chance of developing it if a close family member has it or has schizophrenia or bipolar.  Chemical imbalances in the brain are also considered to be a risk factor.  People who have suffered childhood trauma or extreme stress or taken mind altering drugs like LSD are also more likely to be at risk of developing it.


Symptoms can vary between individuals in duration and severity, but they will include symptoms of both a mood disorder, such as depression or bipolar as well as psychosis which can include:

·      Depression – feelings of low mood, sadness, guilt, low confidence or self-esteem, general aches and pains, a reduction in libido, a decrease or increase to your appetite and sleep issues

·      Mania or manic behaviour – bursts of energy where you feel over active or restless, feeling positive even when things aren’t going well. Sleeping less and being irritable, argumentative, aggressive or angry

·      Delusions – believing things that aren’t true

·      Hallucinations – seeing, hearing or feeling things that are not there

·      Suicidal thoughts – feeling like there in no point to life and planning how to end it

·      Disorganised speech or thinking – jumping from one subject to another in conversations or speaking very fast or slowly.  Being unable to process your thoughts or make sense of them or feel like your mind is racing.

·      Catatonic behaviour – feeling like your unable to move or dazed and spaced out

·      Unusual or bizarre behaviour – acting out of character in ways that people find odd or strange

·      Personal care issues – having little or no interest in your appearance or hygiene

·      Paranoia – feeling like the world and everyone in it are against you


Professional Help

Initially you should see a doctor who can rule out any underlying cause for your symptoms like drug abuse or any other physical or mental health problem.  They can prescribe medications such as antidepressants, mood stabilisers and antipsychotics if necessary. 

You will be referred to a mental health professional who will recommend talking therapies as part of your treatment.  This will include therapies like CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) which will help you to understand links between your thoughts, actions and behaviours.  Family therapy can also be helpful in building a reliable support system to help you manage the condition, and to help their understanding of it.  Written by Jan, Jeana and Wendy at Barnsley Hypnosis and Counselling (UK). For more free Information click above link.

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