What is schizoaffective disorder?

Schizoaffective disorder is a psychiatric condition that has features of schizophrenia and bipolar affective disorder (manic depression).  It affects mood, thoughts, emotions and behaviour.

The major symptoms of the disorder are psychosis, mania and depression.  Psychosis presents as hallucinations and delusional thinking; mania and depression as extremes of mood.

The diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder happens if you have episodes of mental ill-health experiencing:

  • psychotic symptoms
  • mood symptoms of bipolar disorder
  • both psychotic and mood symptoms at the simultaneously or within a fortnight of each other

The disorder comes in 3 main sub-types: manic type, depressive type and mixed type.  These determinations depend upon what mood type presents with the psychosis, and are defined in the ICD-10 section F25.

Schizoaffective disorder also manifests in positive and negative symptoms.  Positive symptoms are experiences that people without schizoaffective disorder do not observe; for instance, hearing voices.  Negative symptoms, on the other hand, are seen as a lack of functions that most people possess, such as an inability to feel pleasure.

It is usual to experience a mix of these symptoms; however, negative symptoms are more difficult to treat, and they often persist when positive symptoms are being effectively treated.

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