Schizoaffective disorder is a mental health condition that includes features of both schizophreniaand a mood disorder such as bipolar disorder or major depressive disorder. The prefix "schizo-" refers to the psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia that affect a person's thinking, sense of self, and perceptions. The term "-affective" refers to extreme shifts in mood, energy, and behavior.
Schizoaffective disorder has a wide range of signs and symptoms that make it challenging to diagnose. Its features overlap significantly with those of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and there is debate about whether schizoaffective disorder should be considered a separate diagnosis or a subtype of one of these other conditions.
Signs and symptoms of psychosis in people with schizoaffective disorder include false perceptions called hallucinations, such as hearing voices no one else can hear or experiencing visions, smells, or tactile (touch) sensations. Strongly held false beliefs (delusions) are also a characteristic feature. For example, affected individuals may be certain that they are a particular historical figure or that they are being plotted against or controlled by others.
There are two major types of schizoaffective disorder, based on which mood disorder is involved: the bipolar type and the depressive type. The bipolar type includes both dramatic "highs," called manic episodes, and "lows," called depressive episodes. The depressive type includes only depressive episodes. Manic episodes are characterized by increased energy and activity, irritability, restlessness, an inability to sleep, and reckless behavior. Depressive episodes are marked by low energy and activity, a feeling of hopelessness, and an inability to perform everyday tasks.
The psychosis and mood problems associated with schizoaffective disorder usually become evident in adolescence or young adulthood. People with this condition often have difficulty functioning at school, at work, and in social settings. Disordered thinking and concentration, inappropriate emotional responses, erratic speech and behavior, and difficulty with personal hygiene and everyday tasks are also common. People with schizoaffective disorder have a higher risk of substance abuse problems and dying by suicide than the general population.
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