Schizoaffective Disorder – Fact File

Schizoaffective Disorder is a mental health illness that affects your mood, thoughts and behaviour. It comprises of symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar, meaning that the individual can experience psychosis, mania and depression.

Around 1 in 200 people develop Schizoaffective Disorder. This tends to develop in early adulthood and is more common in women than it is in men.

There Are Three Types of Schizoaffective Disorder:

Manic – This is when the individual experiences psychotic and manic symptoms.

Depressive – This is when the individual experiences both depressive and psychotic symptoms.

Mixed – This is when the individual experiences psychotic, manic and depressive symptoms.

In general, the individual is likely to feel as though their thoughts are becoming increasingly disorientated, feeling frightened and/or confused, being angry and/or depressed, and feeling overly excited or elated.

Psychotic Symptoms:

  • Hallucinations – Seeing, hearing and feeling things that are not there
  • Delusions – Believing things that are not true
  • Disorganised Speech – Talking too fast or too slow, not making sense to other people and switching from topic to topic without any links.
  • Disorganised Behaviour – Struggling to organise your life
  • Catatonic Behaviour – Feeling unable to move and appearing to be in a daze
  • Negative Symptoms – Loss of ability and enjoyment, lack motivation, slow movements, poor hygiene, finding it hard to set goals and/or make decisions, changes in body language, less interest in day-to-day activities

Mania Symptoms:

  • Overly active, energetic or restless
  • More irritable than usual
  • Feeling overly confident, thinking you can do more than you really can and getting into risky situations.
  • Doing things that you would not usually do – Drinking alcohol, taking drugs, casual sex, spending more money than usual
  • Being easily distracted, struggling to focus on just one topic
  • Feeling elated, even if things are not going well for you

Depressive Symptoms:

  • Low mood
  • Less energy, tired or ‘slowed down’
  • Feeling hopeless or negative
  • Guilty, worthless or helpless
  • Less interest in things that you would usually enjoy
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering things or making decisions
  • Restless or irritable
  • Sleeping too much, not enough, or experiencing broken sleep
  • Being more or less hungry than usual
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or attempting suicide

There is no definitive cause for schizoaffective disorder however studies have shown that those with the illness do have chemical imbalances in their brains. There are also some risk factors that may contribute to the development of this disorder.

It is believed that genetics can play a role in developing a schizoaffective disorder. You may be more at risk if your parents, siblings or grandparents have experienced depression, bipolar, schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder.

It is also believed that environmental factors can contribute to the development of the disorder. For example, if you experienced trauma in your childhood you may be at higher risk, or if you are under high levels of stress.

There are various treatments available for each type of schizoaffective disorder. Most forms of treatment include antipsychotic medication to help decrease symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions. It is also common to be offered some form of talking therapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy to help process your thoughts.

If the individual has the manic type, they will be offered a combination of mood stabilisers and antipsychotic drugs.
If they have the depressive type they may be offered antidepressants such as SSRI’s.

The therapies available include cognitive behavioural therapy, family therapies, art therapies and group therapies; all of which are beneficial in their own way. Speaking to your GP and or mental health team will help determine which form of treatment will best suit your needs.

It is important to be aware that anti-psychotic medications are a long-term treatment and they need to be continued throughout your life (unless instructed otherwise by a medical professional) If you stop taking your medication you are at risk of experiencing another psychotic episode – usually 3-6 months after stopping the medicine.

When experiencing a psychotic episode for the first time, you will be referred to an Early Intervention in psychosis Team (EIT), usually within 14-days.
You may then be moved to a Community Mental Health Team (CMHT) who can support you as you recover from mental illness. They can offer both short-term and long-term support within your community / from your home.

In some, more severe, cases you may have an NHS Crisis Team. The Crisis Team can offer short-term support to try and prevent hospital interventions or they may arrange for you to go into hospital for further help if they see fit.

*Updated 2024

Resources: – Schizoaffective Disorder

Mind Charity – Schizoaffective Disorder

NAMI – Schizoaffective Disorder

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