April 8, 2010

Schizoaffective Disorder

Posted in Category : Depression

Schizoaffective disorder is a psychiatric condition that is difficult to diagnose correctly. It is characterized by psychotic symptoms and mood changes in recurring episodes. Elevations and depression of mood may alternate with distorted perceptions. The distortions in perception can influence all the five senses. However, auditory hallucinations, delusions and disruptions in thinking and speech are the most common symptoms. These symptoms can disrupt normal daily functioning. The symptoms usually begin in the early adult years. Schizoaffective disorder is diagnosed when the individual does not fit the category of schizophrenia nor mood disorders such as depression or bipolar disorder. Some individuals may display symptoms of both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder simultaneously, while some may show symptoms of schizophrenia in the absence of mood disorder symptoms.


The exact cause of schizoaffective disorder is unknown and is still being studied. Some believe that this condition is closely related to schizophrenia and may be caused by the factors that play a role in the development of schizophrenia. Still others are of the opinion that the condition is more closely associated with mood disorders. Evidence of genetic markers involved in this disorder has not proved to be conclusive till date. Environmental factors such as complications at the time of birth that involve viral infection or malnutrition are believed to play a role in triggering the condition in the later stages of life. In addition, disruptions or abnormal functioning of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine may also play a part in this condition. Individuals with schizoaffective disorder may display symptoms of depression such as feelings of unworthiness and guilt, weight loss and lack of appetite and apathy and lack of interest in activities. Symptoms of mania may also be present such as distraction, increase in activity, agitation and self destructive behavior. Symptoms of schizophrenia include hallucinations, rigidity in movement, delusions and abnormal and irregular behavior.


Treatment for schizoaffective disorder involves administering medication to alleviate mood disturbances and symptoms of psychosis. These include anti-psychotics, anti-depressants and mood stabilizers. Psychotherapy is also given in which the individual is taught coping skills. This also helps the individual to have a better understanding of the disorder. The therapy sessions deal with inter-personal relations and life plans. The individual is taught appropriate behaviors to put into practice at home or at the work place. Family and group therapy may also be administered in which support towards the individual is increased and as such feelings of loneliness or isolation are alleviated. Treatment for this condition is usually long-term and the degree of improvement varies from one individual to another.