Schizoaffective disorder is complex and difficult to predict. In fact, it’s even difficult to categorize. There is a debate among psychologists as to whether the disorder is a mood or psychotic disorder. In reality, it’s a bit of both. If you’re diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, it means that you will have symptoms of psychosis, which is when you have trouble telling reality apart from delusions or hallucinations.
Psychosis can affect your senses, but it can also change the way you think. This change in thinking can cause paranoia, delusions of grandeur, or mistrust of others. Mood disorders affect the way you feel, causing mania or depression. Schizoaffective disorder is diagnosed in two categories: schizoaffective disorder, depressive type, and schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type.
But if you start to have these symptoms, should you seek professional help, or will the disorder go away on its own? Learn more about schizoaffective disorder and how it might progress.
Diagnosing Schizoaffective Disorder
If you’re trying to manage schizoaffective disorder on your own, you might encounter several challenges. The first being the question of do you actually have schizoaffective disorder. This mental health issue is notoriously difficult to diagnose, even with trained professionals on your team.
Schizoaffective disorder combines symptoms of schizophrenia and mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder. However, just because you have both symptoms doesn’t mean you have schizoaffective disorder. Did you know severe bipolar disorder and depression can cause psychotic symptoms like delusions? Plus, you can have co-occurring schizoaffective disorder and mood disorders without them being the same disease.
The key difference is timing. If you have schizoaffective disorder, you will have both symptoms throughout the episode. It may start with depression, and as it continues, psychotic symptoms start, and both symptoms continue until the episode is over. When psychotic symptoms manifest as severe bipolar disorder, they will occur as bipolar symptoms escalate and then go away as your symptoms improve. However, if you take medications for bipolar disorder, it may not help psychotic symptoms if you have schizoaffective disorder. If you have schizophrenia with a mood disorder like major depression, you’ll experience psychotic symptoms with brief and random periods of depression.
Diagnosing schizoaffective disorder will mean working with your therapist or psychiatrist to monitor your symptoms and follow up. In many cases, schizoaffective disorder is diagnosed as depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia before it’s realized that other symptoms are related. Working with professionals to come up with the right diagnosis and treatment plan is the best way to treat a complicated disorder.
Schizoaffective Disorder Progression
When a medical or psychological problem starts to disrupt a person’s life, many people first opt to wait and let it pass. However, in most cases, early treatment leads to the best possible outcomes.
Unlike diseases that affect your physical health, such as cancer, mental health problems are more difficult to predict. They don’t always grow and spread, and there is no way to see the problem as it either grows or recedes.
Issues like schizoaffective disorder can come and go over time. Sometimes it can leave you with no symptoms only to return later. In some cases, it can get worse over time until it starts to significantly impact your life.
Schizoaffective disorders can lead to severe complications, including:
- Substance use disorders
- Anxiety disorders
- Relationship problems
- Financial instability
- Health issues
- Suicidal thoughts and actions
- Inability to find or keep employment
- Fugue states
- Physical injuries
- Inability to speak or communicate
Without treatment, schizoaffective disorders are unlikely to go away on their own. They’re more likely to lead to other problems as the issue starts to take over your life.
In general, people often self-medicate to cope with mental health issues. However, doing so only increases the risk of developing substance use disorders. It can also estrange you from normal healthy relationships with friends and family, leading to isolation that can deepen mental health problems.
Psychotic symptoms can also make communication and cognition more difficult. This can make it difficult to perform in school and at work. In severe cases, cognitive impairments can make daily living a challenge. You may become confused, get lost, or spend days in a fugue state.
As schizoaffective disorder progresses, it can severely affect your health and well-being. It can even become fatal, especially if it leads to thoughts of suicide.
Why Seek Treatment?
Schizoaffective disorder is often progressive, which means one’s mental health is at risk of declining if it isn’t addressed. If you or someone you know is struggling with challenges involving mental health that might be schizoaffective disorder, help to treat the condition may be available.
Treatment options may include medications like antipsychotics or antidepressants. It may also include psychotherapies like cognitive behavioral therapy. Learn more about schizoaffective disorder and effective treatment options.