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Can Schizoaffective Disorder Be Treated Without Medication?

You may have heard of schizophrenia, but the term schizoaffective disorder may not ring a bell. While the condition only affects a small portion of our society, experts are still learning more about this severe ailment. 

The term schizoaffective psychosis was introduced to the public in 1933 by a Russian psychiatrist known by Jacob Kasanin. It was defined as a subgroup of psychosis where affective and schizophrenic symptoms appear simultaneously. It could be within a few days of another or within the same episode of illness.

Other concepts, like mixed psychosis and intermediate psychosis, were used to describe the differences between affective and schizophrenic disorders. Kasanin’s terminology, however, persisted and gave rise to the subgroup we know today as schizoaffective disorder. The specific causes remain unknown, but two types of the condition have been established. 

One of those is bipolar disorder, which is mood disturbances that are manic or mixed (manic and depressive). The other is a depressive condition, where mood disturbances include severe depressive symptoms. 

Schizoaffective disorder is debilitating and requires treatment. Unfortunately, individuals must use medication along with psychotherapy to manage their symptoms. All cases will differ, and the only way to determine what is right for you is to speak with a medical professional. Let’s take a look an in-depth look at schizoaffective disorder and see how it’s treated.

What Is Schizoaffective Disorder?

Schizoaffective disorder is a psychotic disorder characterized by a combination of symptoms, which include delusions or hallucinations, symptoms of a mood disorder, mania, and depression. The symptoms are similar to schizophrenia, but there are some key differences.

Due to its sharing symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, doctors commonly misdiagnose the condition. Schizoaffective disorder is not well studied, and many interventions and treatment techniques are borrowed from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5), schizoaffective disorder is seen in only 0.3 percent of the population. There is some conflicting information, but the majority of reports agree that the condition is more prevalent in women than men. 

Those who leave the condition untreated will have trouble functioning at school, work, or in social situations. Individuals with schizoaffective disorder may have a difficult time holding down a job or attending school. It can cause the person to isolate, which can lead to loneliness.

Causes of Schizoaffective Disorder

The precise cause is schizoaffective disorder is still unknown, but there is a combination of factors believed to contribute to the condition. Brain structure and genetics are the most prominent two reasons that contribute, but other reasons that may cause this include:

  • Using mind-altering drugs (psychotropic or psychoactive)
  • Stressful events, such as a death in the family or divorce
  • A close blood-related relative has bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or schizoaffective disorder

Schizoaffective disorder will not occur all at once; instead, the onset will occur gradually over a span of a decade. The events above may trigger symptoms that have been developing over this time, and the age of onset is typically in early adulthood. The symptoms can occur anytime from adolescence through late life.

Symptoms of Schizoaffective Disorder

There are two significant subsets of schizoaffective disorder, which include:

  • Bipolar disorder: This particular subtype is given when a manic episode if part of the presentation of symptoms. Major depressive episodes may also occur.
  • Depressive type: This subtype is only given when a major depressive episode presents itself.

Individuals may experience varying symptoms based on the diagnosis. The course of schizoaffective disorder features cycles of serious symptoms, followed by periods of improvement. These symptoms include:

  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Disorganized thoughts
  • Manic behavior
  • Severely depressed mood
  • Problems managing personal care
  • Impaired functioning

Treating Schizoaffective Disorder

Treatment will vary on a case-by-case basis and the severity of symptoms. Individuals typically respond well to an approach comprised of medication, life-skills training, and psychotherapy. Due to the severity of the condition, hospitalization is necessary in some cases. Suicidal behavior is a risk, and you must treat this immediately.

  • Medication management: Medicine is necessary to treat schizoaffective disorder, and a physician may provide their patient with antipsychotics to manage the symptoms of delusion and hallucinations. They may also provide mood stabilizers and antidepressants. 
  • Psychotherapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy and family-focused therapy will help someone manage and learn to cope with their symptoms. Group therapy will be helpful in decreasing the social isolation that comes with schizoaffective disorder.
  • Life skills training: Learning these skills will be helpful and improve someone’s quality of life. There is no cure for schizoaffective disorder, and social skills training will help improve communication and how the person interacts with others at home or in a work setting. Life skills training will also help someone prepare, find, and maintain employment.

With the proper treatment, it is possible for someone to improve their life and avoid relapses. You must speak with a doctor and get help today to determine what works best for you.

Sources

Psychotic Disorders. (2019, November 1). Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/psychoticdisorders.html

Bhandari, S. (2019, February 21). Schizophrenia vs. Schizoaffective Disorder: The Difference Explained. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/schizophrenia/schizophrenia-schizoaffective-disorder#1

NAMI. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/learn-more/mental-health-by-the-numbers

Crespo-Facorro, B. (2019, March 7). Schizoaffective disorder. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/science/schizoaffective-disorder

Hurley, K. (n.d.). What is Schizoaffective Disorder & How Can I Treat It? Retrieved from https://www.psycom.net/depression.central.schizoaffective.html

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