Schizoaffective disorder is a mental health disorder where you experience psychosis as well as mood symptoms. Schizoaffective disorders is its own diagnosis, and differs from schizophrenia and bipolar because it is seen as a psychotic disorder with significant mood features, rather than a mood disorder with psychosis. The word ‘schizoaffective’ can be broken down into two parts: ‘Schizo’ referring to symptoms of psychosis and ‘affective’ referring to mood symptoms.
There are two types of schizoaffective disorder:
- Bipolar. This is where you have manic episodes and/or depressive episodes alongside psychosis.
- Depressive. This is where you only have depressive episodes alongside psychosis.
There is not one root cause of schizoaffective disorder, however it is believed that it is likely caused by a combination of factors such as PSTD from a traumatic event, childhood trauma, or genetics. Similarly, no one experiences the symptoms of schizoaffective disorder in the same way, however there are general symptoms that are common – these can be divided into two groups, psychosis symptoms ,and mood symptoms:
Symptoms of psychosis
These symptoms are closely linked to schizophrenia.
- This is when you experience events and things around you that others do not. For example you may have visual hallucinations or hear voices.
- This is when you hold very strong beliefs that no body else shares. For example, you believe you have supernatural powers.
These symptoms are closely linked to bipolar disorder and are sometimes called ‘episodes’.
- Depressive symptoms. This is where you may feel low and experience other problems such as isolation and encounter sleep problems. You may also experience suicidal feelings.
- Manic symptoms. This is when you feel extremely excited or irritated. You may partake in behaviour that puts you or others at risk, or not think through plans.
These symptoms can be experienced in conjunction with each other and it may vary how long they last for.
Looking after yourself
There can be a certain stigma attached to schizoaffective disorder, and it is important to look after yourself and your mental health. What works for others may not work for you, it is worth trying various ways of self care until you find what suits you. Here are some examples of ways you can look after yourself if you are experiencing symptoms of schizoaffective disorder:
- Recognising your triggers. Keeping a log of your experiences may help you spot patterns in your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours which may help you regulate your emotions when experiencing some of the symptoms.
- Reach out to a loved one. Talking to someone you trust about how you feel is invaluable. Confide in them about your experiences and feelings, and remember they love you and want to help you.
- Try new ways of relaxing. There are never enough ways to relax, try a new type of recommend relaxation such as yoga, walking, or deep breathing.