Causes & Effects of Schizoaffective Disorder

At Covington Behavioral Health, we believe education is an important first step in the effort to heal from schizoaffective disorder. Understanding the signs, symptoms, and effects of schizoaffective disorder can help you get the right type and level of care for yourself or a loved one.

Understanding Schizoaffective Disorder

Learn about schizoaffective disorder

Schizoaffective disorder is a mental health condition known for creating hallucinations and delusions (psychosis) that are accompanied by depressive or manic moods. This schizophrenia spectrum disorder must last at least two weeks before diagnosis, but it may last a lifetime without treatment. To the outside observer, this disorder looks much like a combination of depression or bipolar disorder along with schizophrenia.

Untreated schizoaffective disorder can lead to severe and detrimental consequences. Individuals with this disorder have difficulty determining reality from non-reality. Schizoaffective disorder makes everyday functioning extremely challenging and can impact educational and career opportunities. The mood effects related to this disorder often cause a strain on relationships and life goals. Moods related to schizoaffective disorder are more intense than simple sadness or excitability, as depression and mania impact all areas of functioning. Unfortunately, symptoms of schizoaffective disorder can worsen significantly without treatment.


Schizoaffective disorder statistics

The American Psychiatric Association states the schizophrenia is three times more common than schizoaffective disorder, and that schizoaffective disorder does not occur as often as other psychotic disorders.

Overall, schizoaffective disorder counts for about 0.3% of all schizophrenia spectrum disorder cases. Women are at a slightly higher risk of this disorder, and women are more likely to suffer from depression symptoms, while men tend to exhibit slightly more bipolar symptoms during the course of this disease.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for schizoaffective disorder

Schizoaffective disorder has been linked to genetic heritability. While environment may play a role in the intensity of symptoms on occasion, family history is more likely to contribute to a higher risk of this disorder.

Genetic: Family history of schizophrenia spectrum disorders plays a key role in schizoaffective disorder risk. Individuals who have a first-degree relative, such as a mother or father, with schizophrenia spectrum disorder are more at risk for this disorder than the general population.

Risk Factors:

  • Close family members with bipolar disorder
  • Close family members with schizophrenia spectrum disorder

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of schizoaffective disorder

The signs and symptoms of this disorder vary from individual to individual. Some individuals experience manic episodes with this disorder, while others only experience depressive episodes. Mood disturbances and mood swings can occur at varying intensities and at different times with each unique individual. Some common signs of schizoaffective disorder include:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Catatonia (or lack of movement)
  • Confusing or disorganized thought or actions
  • Slow movements
  • Risky or impulsive behavior
  • Excessive movement or speed-talking (during manic episodes)
  • Incoherent speech

Physical symptoms:

  • Lethargy or listlessness
  • Weight changes
  • Sleeping excessively
  • Flat affect, or lack of expression or tone fluctuation
  • Excess energy (during manic episodes)
  • Not sleeping enough or not sleeping at all (during manic episodes)

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Seeing or hearing things that do not exist
  • Delusional thoughts
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Thoughts of suicide or self-harm
  • Racing thoughts (during manic episodes)

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Easily angered or irritated
  • Persistent sadness, hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Feeling that one is special, superhuman, or grandiose (during manic episodes)


Effects of schizoaffective disorder

Untreated schizoaffective disorder can result in a number of devastating consequences, including an increase in severity of other mental health conditions, physical harm, or loss of relationships. If treatment is not accepted immediately, the following consequences may result:

  • Suicidal ideation or suicide attempts
  • Lowered job performance or inability to work
  • Loss of income
  • Relationship conflict and loss
  • Substance abuse or addiction
  • Inability to experience satisfying relationships
  • Increase in or development of other mental health disorders
  • Death due to overdose or suicide

Co-Occurring Disorders

Schizoaffective disorder and co-occurring disorders

Individuals who struggle with schizoaffective disorder often struggle with other mental health disorders at the same time. Some disorders that co-occur with schizoaffective disorder include:

  • Substance use disorders
  • Anxiety disorders

Prior to treatment, my life was not only unmanageable, it was unlivable. Covington Behavioral Health Hospital helped provide me with a full, meaningful life. Thank you!

– a former patient
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