Schizoaffective disorders can be some of the most severe forms of mental health disorders an individual can experience. What’s even more challenging is the fact that only a very small portion of society develops these disorders – less than 1%.
This presents several challenges for individuals suffering from these disorders and the professionals looking to treat them. Because of the significantly low number of cases, individuals may feel isolated or helpless in treatment for these disorders.
Additionally, it’s difficult to conduct appropriate research when there’s a lack of available patients. This makes advancement in treatment and therapeutic options difficult to come by, often leading to limited courses of action.
However, there is a high chance of experiencing relief and recovery by utilizing the current resources available to individuals suffering from schizoaffective disorder. What are these rare disorders, and how do they affect individuals who suffer from them?
What Is Schizoaffective Disorder?
Schizoaffective disorder is an ongoing mental health disorder that includes schizophrenia and an additional mood disorder such as depression or bipolar disorder. Unfortunately, individuals who have schizophrenia aren’t diagnosed properly initially. It’s not uncommon to receive a diagnosis that is exclusively related to depression.
It’s not known for a fact that schizoaffective disorder is directly related to schizophrenia or any particular mood disorder. However, schizoaffective disorder is often approached and treated as the simultaneous occurrence of both conditions.
However, what is known is that this disorder affects men and women equally. However, men are more likely to develop the symptoms of this condition at a younger age. Physicians may provide options for relief, but it’s common for patients to experience subsequent relapses. It’s very common for individuals to display signs of substance abuse disorder as well.
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Dual diagnosis is required in nearly every case of schizoaffective disorder. If not for the presence of schizophrenia and a mood disorder, then the intersection of mental health disorders and substance abuse disorders. In reality, cases of this disorder display a three-fold spread of some of the most severe mental health disorders in existence.
Currently, two types of schizoaffective disorder exist.
Types of Schizoaffective Disorders
These are the two primary forms of schizoaffective disorders.
This type includes episodes of mania followed by major depression and vice-versa.
This form includes severe depressive episodes exclusively.
Because of the wide range of disorders involved with schizoaffective disorder, there are multiple symptoms present in diagnosed individuals.
Symptoms of Schizoaffective Disorder
Symptoms will range in severity and differ in each individual. However, these are normally the most common signs:
Delusions are defined as false and sometimes strange beliefs that a person clings to. Even when they are presented with facts, they still hold on to the delusion.
Depression symptoms alone carry a wide range of symptoms and emotions, including emptiness, hopelessness, worthlessness, and overall sadness.
Hallucinations can be auditory or visual and are outlined as sensing the presence of things that don’t exist.
Individuals fail to care for themselves. This may include not eating correctly, showering or bathing, and generally keeping an unwell appearance.
Mania is the sudden increase in energy levels or a sudden switch to feelings of happiness. Individuals may experience racing thoughts and risky behavior.
There may be significant challenges with speech or communication. Many individuals are only able to give a fraction of an answer to questions given to them. They may also answer the question with information that’s irrelevant to the topic.
Difficulties In Environments
There may be trouble at work, school, or in social environments.
Because of the varying types of symptoms, it is difficult to pinpoint exact causes when this condition is present.
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Causes of Schizoaffective Disorder
There is no exact cause of schizoaffective disorder. However, several risk factors have been highlighted that are relevant to each case.
Many times, tendencies may be inherited that provide the features and symptoms linked to schizoaffective disorder. These are passed down from parents.
When individuals have schizophrenia and mood disorders, there are usually challenges associated with the circuits in the brain that regulate mood and patterns of thinking. Schizophrenia has been linked to insufficient levels of dopamine, which normally helps individuals manage the previously mentioned tasks.
Many researchers believe that viral infections and other medical events that are highly stressful to the body and mind could be a factor. While there are links, what causes these links isn’t currently clear.
Taking mind-altering drugs has been linked with schizoaffective disorders. This includes a wide range of substances, including LSD, PCP, marijuana, ketamine, and more.
Normally, schizoaffective disorder manifests in young adults. The average range is between the ages of 17 and 28. There is a slightly higher rate of this disorder in women than men, and it rarely develops in children.
Because schizoaffective disorder includes the combination of two mental conditions (sometimes three), it’s often confused with other disorders. Many doctors will either diagnose one or the other (schizophrenia or a mood disorder). This makes it difficult to gauge how many people specifically have schizoaffective disorder accurately.
The difficulties with assessing certain elements of this disorder are clear. How does a mental health professional diagnose schizoaffective disorder?
Diagnosis of Schizoaffective Disorder
No lab test exists to diagnose the schizoaffective disorder. Because of this, doctors must solely rely on medical history and assessments to diagnose patients. Questionnaires known as clinical interviews are provided that outline information regarding mental health and daily life.
Normally, an MRI scan and blood tests are prescribed to eliminate the presence of another underlying cause for symptoms.
When a doctor finds no physical factors involved, clients are referred to a mental health professional. Psychiatrists and psychologists specialize in diagnosing and treating these types of disorders.
Individuals diagnosed with the schizoaffective disorder must display the following signs:
- Periods of extended, uninterrupted illness
- Bouts of mania, depression, and/or a mixture of both
- Significant symptoms of schizophrenia
- Two periods of extreme psychotic signs, lasting at least two weeks. One of the episodes must happen without depressive or manic symptoms.
Once a diagnosis is received, treatment may begin for this condition.
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Treatment of Schizoaffective Disorder
The treatment for schizoaffective disorder will include a combination of several different elements. Because of the relative lack of information regarding this condition, only one medication that the FDA approves for official treatment exists.
However, there are multiple options that treat schizophrenia and mood disorders exclusively. Additionally, evidence-based psychological treatment is considered effective in treating this disorder.
The medications you take are heavily dependent on whether symptoms of depression or bipolar exist alone or in conjunction with symptoms of schizophrenia. The primary medications prescribed for symptoms like hallucinations, disassociation, and disordered thinking are known as antipsychotics.
These may help with schizoaffective disorder, but a drug called Invega is the sole medication approved by the FDA for treatment. Otherwise, antidepressants and mood stabilizers may be prescribed.
Psychotherapy aims to help you gain education regarding a disorder, craft goals, and manage situations and behaviors regarding the disorder. Family participation in therapy can help loved ones improve at relating to and assisting individuals who have schizoaffective disorder.
This is focused on work, social, and environmental skills. These areas of focus include grooming, hygiene, and normal activities individuals may stray from. Money and home management are often included.
Severe psychotic episodes will require a hospital stay.This is especially true if you have suicidal thoughts or tendencies.
When all else fails, electroconvulsive therapy may be prescribed as a final alternative. If clients don’t respond favorably to any other methods, electroconvulsive therapy sends a quick current through your brain. General anesthesia allows clients to sleep through the process because it causes a brief seizure. Doctors that prescribe this treatment believe it changes your brain chemistry and may reverse certain conditions.
Recovery groups exist for individuals to engage peers going through the same ordeal. Various topics of group meetings are selected by individuals heading these meetings.
The primary focus of these meetings is to expand education regarding mental health disorders and other relevant topics. These groups also create an atmosphere of camaraderie that doubles as an additional pillar for the client’s support system.
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Mental Health Awareness
It’s critical that individuals close to clients going through mental health treatment and overall society focus on mental health awareness and eliminating negativity associated with these disorders. Additionally, taking mental health more seriously is critical, especially in demographics that are normally conditioned not to disclose specific ailments (men).
Dual diagnosis has recently begun receiving more attention, hopefully leading to treatment and diagnostic breakthroughs for issues like schizoaffective disorder. It’s only through these types of efforts that make it is possible for individuals to stop living in the dark with mental health disorders and finally seek treatment.
Long-term Recovery of Schizoaffective Disorders
Currently, there is a minimal amount of clinical information regarding the schizoaffective disorder. However, plenty is known regarding the two conditions that merge to form its creation.
With a strategic approach using background knowledge on both disorders and a healthy regimen of behavioral therapies and group counseling, long-term recovery is possible. Additionally, the family dynamic and aftercare services are critical to remaining proactive in treating this disorder after inpatient or outpatient services.
One primary area of concern is the addition of substance abuse disorders into the fold, making this a triple-threat of mental health and addiction challenges. Is this a prelude to what the future holds for mental health disorders and treatment? Will dual-diagnosis segue into triple and quadruple levels of diagnosis?
This again highlights the importance of attention to mental wellness in our country. However, the upside to unmasking severe cases of mental conditions is new baseline information and a solid foundation in which to begin new treatment and prevention.
It’s possible that through research and testing, new measures can be taken to prevent the onset of certain disorders and establish new forms of maintenance. This also decreases the odds of relapse for individuals who have successfully battled for their mental wellness.
At Icarus Behavioral Health, we believe in joining you in this battle. For more information regarding how we can help you battle schizoaffective disorder or any other challenges associated with dual diagnosis, contact one of our admissions staff for immediate assistance.
We continue to add to a growing daily list of individuals that have battled substance abuse and won. To join that list, call us today.
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