Schizoaffective disorder is a mixture of two major mental illnesses; some of the psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia and major mood (affective) disorders, such as unipolar depression and bipolar or manic depression.  This mental illness is thought to be genetic.  Schizoaffective disorder involves different brain mechanisms, develops in different ways, and responds differently by each patient to treatments.

The following symptoms are not the result of substance abuse or side effects of medications.  Also, they are not due to a general medical condition such as hypothyroidism.  In addition, the symptoms are not related to a period of bereavement or sad situation.  The cause is unknown but is thought to stem from a mixture of biological, genetic and environmental factors.

Criteria for schizoaffective disorder is dependent on an uninterrupted period of illness during which there is either a Major Depressive Episode, a Manic Episode, or a Mixed Episode that coincides with symptoms of Schizophrenia.

Major Depressive Episode

  • depressed mood lasting all day for several days
  • feeling sad or empty
  • diminished interest or pleasure in normal activities
  • significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain
  • decrease or increase in appetite every day for several days
  • insomnia or hypersomnia nearly everyday
  • psychomotor agitation or retardation (feeling slowed down or periods of restlessness)
  • fatigue or loss of energy
  • difficulty thinking or concentrating
  • indecisiveness
  • complaints of various physical symptoms
  • recurrent suicidal ideations

Manic Episode

Mixed Episode

  • a combination of criteria for major depressive episodes and manic episodes lasting for more than one week
  • the mixed episode is severe and requires hospitalization if accompanied by schizophrenic symptoms

Schizophrenic Symptoms

Schizoaffective disorder usually begins in early adulthood and is more prevalent in women than men.  The patient may have difficulties following objects with their eyes and have rapid eye movement during dreaming earlier than usual during the night.  Schizoaffective disorder is a life-long illness for most patients.  It varies from person to person, but flares up periodically in times of stress.  These periods are called relapses.  They may limit functioning and require hospitalization.  In between relapses, most people have mild, if any symptoms.

Treatments

During psychotic states the patient should be treated with antipsychotic medications, also know as neuroleptic drugs.  Antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and lithium that are frequently used for bipolar disorder take longer periods of time to become effective so they are not considered in the treatment of schizoaffective disorder usually.  Antipsychotic medications can cause tardive dyskinesia (a serious and sometimes irreversible disorder of body movement).  Patients are only treated with these medications until they are stable in order to avoid the side effects of the medications.  After the psychotic episodes have subsided, the disorder may be treated with antidepressants, lithium, anticonvulsants (mood stabilizers), or electroconvulsive therapyPsychotherapy is also very useful in the treatment of schizoaffective disorder, during all phases of the illness.

I am a schizoaffective patient and have undergone several combinations of medications and many electroconvulsive therapy sessions.  Some of the combinations of medications helped, some seemed to make the psychosis worse.  Once my psychiatrist found the correct balance of medication and electroconvulsive therapy, I finally became stable and now in a few months I am going to be able to start going off of some of my medications, which makes me very happy.  Writing on everything2 has allowed me to stimulate my brain again and educate people on my diseases.  I hope that if there are any of you out there with this disease, your physician can find the right combination of medications and treatments just as my physician has helped me. 


Sources:
National Mental Health Association http://www.nmha.org
Internet Mental Health http//mentalhealth.com
New York Online Access to Health http://noah-health.org

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