Understanding Schizoaffective Disorder

Schizoaffective disorder is fairly rare. But it is a serious and puzzling brain disorder. It combines symptoms of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. The symptoms are often severe and ongoing. They can cause great emotional pain for the person with the condition and for their family and friends. This disorder often disrupts lives. But there is reason for hope. Talk with your healthcare provider or mental health professional.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of schizoaffective disorder can vary greatly. People with this disorder may see or hear things that aren’t there (hallucinations). Or they may hold false, fixed beliefs (delusions). These can occur without any mood changes. At times, people with this disorder may seem withdrawn, listless, and remote. They may also have extreme mood swings. They may feel intensely happy for a time. Later, they may be very depressed. In some cases, they might have only lows without the highs. They might also have problems with sleep or a change in appetite. They may become more or less talkative, lose focus in their thinking, or even think about suicide.

What causes it?

The causes of schizoaffective disorder aren’t fully understood. It is known that this disorder runs in families. Certain chemicals in the brain also play a role. In some people, abuse, neglect, or a major trauma may trigger the disorder.

Finding help

Right now there is no cure. But treatment with medicines and therapy may be helpful. There are also many support services for people with schizoaffective disorders and their families.


Medicines may relieve many symptoms of schizoaffective disorder. These may include antipsychotic medicines, antidepressant medicines, or mood stabilizers. If your loved one is troubled by medicine side effects, tell their healthcare provider. Changing the dose or type of medicine may help. Encourage your loved one to keep taking their medicines and get ongoing follow-up care. Stopping the medicines may cause symptoms to come back. Failing to visit the provider to change the doses can also make symptoms return. Never increase or decrease the dose unless you talk with the provider.

Supportive therapy

A licensed therapist such as a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) can offer your loved one therapy and support. Social workers and care managers may also help with work, money, or housing issues. Friends and family members may also need support. Learning more about schizoaffective disorder can help you cope. Learn how best to help with your loved one’s care. Ask your mental healthcare providers for reliable community or online patient and family resources. 

Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Paul Ballas MD
Date Last Reviewed: 5/1/2022
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