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How Schizoaffective Disorder Affects Children vs. Adults

Schizoaffective disorder is caused by a cluster of diagnoses known as the schizophrenia spectrum, which includes several other psychotic disorders. Medical professionals view these psychotic disorders and schizophrenia spectrum as a group of psychiatric conditions that include:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Brief psychotic disorder
  • Schizotypal (personality) disorders
  • Schizoaffective disorder
  • Catatonia
  • Psychotic disorder due to another medical condition
  • Substance/Medication-Induced Psychotic disorder

The disorders are characterized by the symptoms we listed above, and they are divided into two groups – positive and negative. Positive symptoms are in addition to normal experiences that youth without schizophrenia will not likely experience. Positive symptoms will include hallucinations, delusions, disorganized thinking (speech), and grossly abnormal motor behavior, including catatonia. 

Delusions are fixed beliefs that someone cannot prove despite conflicting evidence. Hallucinations are perceptions that occur without external stimulus. Disorganized thinking or speech is characterized by a derailment in an individual’s speech pattern. Disorganized motor behavior is a challenge to sustain goal-oriented behavior. It could occur in various ways, which includes childlike silliness or unpredictable agitation. 

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Negative symptoms typically involve avolition, diminished emotional expression, anhedonia, and alogia. Diminished emotional expression is when certain emotional expressions are reduced, such as eye contact, and intonation of speech. Anhedonia is a decreased ability to experience pleasure from positive stimuli, while alogia causes a diminished speech output. 

Schizoaffective Disorder in Children

Childhood is a time of experimentation and learning about your surroundings, but when you add a psychotic disorder into the mix, it can make this task more challenging than usual. Although it’s less common, schizoaffective disorder can affect children. Symptoms such as anxiety, depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and autism can be indicators. The onset of psychosis is commonly preceded by a period of nonpsychotic symptoms known as prodromal symptoms. 

Psychiatric diseases in children are recognized more frequently because of changing trends in mental health care. It has led physicians and pediatricians to serve as principal treaters of psychiatrically ill youth and families. It’s unclear if these disorders have become more prevalent in the population, or if educational efforts and enhanced screening have improved case detection. 

Schizoaffective Disorder in Adults

Schizoaffective disorder is more commonly diagnosed in adults, and there are two different types of the condition. These include:

  • Bipolar type: Includes episodes of mania and significant depression.
  • Depressive type: Includes only major depressive episodes.

Untreated schizoaffective disorder in adults can cause problems at work, in social situations, or at school. It may lead to trouble holding down a job, loneliness, or the ability to attend school. Individuals with schizoaffective disorder commonly need assistance and support with their daily functions. Fortunately, treatment will help them to manage symptoms and improve the quality of their lives. 

Symptoms of Schizoaffective Disorder

Signs and symptoms of schizoaffective disorder are dependent on the type – depressive or bipolar – and could include:

  • Bizarre or unusual behavior
  • Symptoms of depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Problems with managing self-care, such as physical appearance or cleanliness
  • Impaired social, academic, or occupational functioning

If you believe you could be dealing with schizoaffective disorder, you must immediately reach out to a doctor. Only a physician or psychologist can make this determination and find the right treatment for you. 

Sources

Schizoaffective disorder. (2019, November 9). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/schizoaffective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20354504

Wy, T. J. P. (2020, February 29). Schizoaffective Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK541012/

Schizophrenia. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/schizophrenia/index.shtml

Wilcox, J. A., & Reid Duffy, P. (2015, December 9). The Syndrome of Catatonia. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4695780/

Stevens, J. R., Prince, J. B., Prager, L. M., & Stern, T. A. (2014). Psychotic disorders in children and adolescents: a primer on contemporary evaluation and management. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4116281/

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