What is schizoaffective disorder?

Schizoaffective disorder is a chronic mental health disorder. The disorder combines symptoms of psychosis (hallucinations and delusions) with symptoms of mood disorders (mania and/or depression). There are two types depending on what types of mood symptoms are present. The two types are: bipolar type or depressive type.

How common is schizoaffective disorder?

It is believed to be present in less than 1 percent of the population. It is less prevalent than schizophrenia or mood disorders. Research suggests that women are slightly more prone to be diagnosed. And men tend to develop the disorder at a younger age. It is usually first diagnosed between ages 16 and 30. The disorder is rarely diagnosed in children.

What are the Causes?

The exact cause of schizoaffective disorder is not known at this time. It has been suggested that it can result from a combination of risk factors. These factors appear to affect brain development both prenatally and during childhood and adolescence. The risk factor includes:

  • Birth defects
  • Brain chemistry and structure
  • Genetics
  • Severe Life stressors
  • Psychoactive or psychotropic drug use
  • Viral infections

Related Conditions

Many times schizoaffective disorder may be part of overlapping disorders. Including attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Substance and alcohol abuse can also be prevalent.

A co-occurring disorder can worsen the symptoms of schizoaffective disorder. This often makes a person less likely to follow their treatment plan. The proper diagnosis and integrated treatment is key to managing and coping with a dual diagnosis.

Schizoaffective disorder is often confused with other mental illness, such as schizophrenia. However, these are two distinct disorders. Each has its own diagnostic criteria and treatment. While they do share many symptoms, the main difference is the presence of a significant mood component with schizoaffective disorder.

Diagnosis Schizoaffective-Disorder/diagnosis

Due overlaps with other conditions schizoaffective disorder can be difficult to diagnose. Often it is incorrectly diagnosed as simply bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

The criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) are: a period of major mood disorder (depression or mania) and at least two of the following schizophrenia symptoms:

  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Disorganization
  • “Negative” symptoms

Also a person must have had delusions or hallucinations for two or more weeks in the absence of a mood episode. The mood symptoms must also be present for most of the duration of the illness.


Medication Medications such as mood stabilizers, anti psychotics, and antidepressants are often prescribed for schizoaffective disorder. Taking anti psychotic medication helps to increase feeling calmer while decreasing hallucinations and delusions.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy