Schizoaffective Disorder Treatment
What is Schizoaffective Disorder?
Schizoaffective disorder is one of the most commonly misdiagnosed conditions because, based on the presentation, it can look very similar to schizophrenia or a mood disorder. It’s also very rare, affecting only a third as many people as schizophrenia, with a lifetime prevalence rate of 0.3 percent. Having the disorder not only exposes you to a unique set of challenges because of psychosis and mood disturbances, but you may also be the subject of a misdiagnosis. So, let’s discuss the condition, how it’s diagnosed, and how it’s treated at the URP Behavioral Health residential program.
Schizoaffective disorder is a severe mental illness that combines the core symptoms of schizophrenia and mood disorders. Since it’s part of the schizophrenic spectrum of psychotic disorders, it’s marked by symptoms like hallucinations or delusions. What differentiates it from other disorders in the spectrum is the occurrence of mood-related symptoms that occur in prominent mood disorders like major depression or bipolar disorder. Although it can lead to impairments in functioning, the right combination of treatments can help you manage everyday problems.
Types of Schizoaffective Disorder
You can experience either one of two major types of schizoaffective disorder. These types differ based on the mood disturbances involved:
- Depressive Type: In this type, you experience depressive episodes, which are characterized by low mood, feelings of hopelessness, and a lack of motivation to do everyday tasks.
- Bipolar Type: In this type, you experience manic episodes in addition to depressive episodes. During manic episodes, you display symptoms like engaging in reckless behavior, restlessness, and irritability.
How Schizoaffective Disorder Affects People
Schizoaffective disorder can lead to problems in functioning at home, work, and in relationships. An inability to act in social situations can lead to feelings of loneliness and impact your ability to keep a job. You may also need support to help with daily functioning at home. With treatment, you can learn to manage symptoms and gain independence in some areas.
Who Gets Schizoaffective Disorder?
The psychotic symptoms and mood disturbances associated with the condition become more prominent during adolescence or young adulthood. Factors that can increase your risk of developing the disorder include exposure to highly stressful events, a family history of mental illness, and neurotransmitter imbalance.
How is Schizoaffective Disorder Diagnosed?
To specifically diagnose schizoaffective disorder, your psychiatrist will examine whether you meet the criteria. It’s mentioned in the fifth edition of the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and includes the following:
- An uninterrupted period during the illness when you experienced a major mood episode (this can be depressive or manic), along with at least 2 of the following: delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, disorganized behavior, and negative symptoms. (one of the two must be hallucinations, delusions, or disorganized speech)
- Hallucinations or delusions for over two weeks without a major depression or manic episode.
- Symptoms that meet the criteria of a major mood episode
Lastly, the symptoms of mental illness shouldn’t occur due to a medical condition or substance abuse.
In addition to pharmacotherapy, our team of mental health specialists emphasizes psychotherapy as a long-term method to reduce symptoms and improve functioning.
The first type is individual therapy, which involves one-on-one sessions with your therapist. In these sessions, your therapist will employ a suitable approach, like cognitive behavioral therapy, to help you develop better coping skills.
It’s common to experience dysfunctional thought patterns when you have schizoaffective disorder. With talk therapy, you’ll develop a therapeutic alliance with your therapist, providing you with the opportunity to understand your condition better and effectively manage symptoms.
Group or Family Therapy
During family therapy, you and your family members, such as your parents, siblings, or partner, will attend a session with your therapist. Here, your mental health practitioner will provide them with helpful strategies to strengthen communication, resolve conflicts, and cope with the challenges that may occur as a result of your condition.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
CBT is an effective therapy option to help with the depressive symptoms of schizoaffective disorder, as well as psychotic symptoms that don’t respond to medication. You’ll work with your therapist to understand how your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are connected. Learning about this connection can prevent you from engaging in dangerous or harmful behaviors whenever you experience distress.
Vocational Skill Training
During treatment, you’ll undergo vocational skill training to enhance employability. Holding a steady job can be a helpful part of the rehabilitative process because it assists with functioning and quality of life. It also prevents the risk of symptoms worsening due to stressful circumstances like financial problems.
Research indicates that effective use of communication skills is positively associated with role functioning. Therefore, it’s common for individualized treatment plans to include sessions where your therapist will help build communication skills. These skills allow you to form healthy relationships and become a member of the community.
When you have schizoaffective disorder, it becomes difficult to manage the problems associated with day-to-day living. A deficit in problem-solving skills can impair your ability to live independently and make informed decisions. Working with a therapist to build your problem-solving skills allows you to approach problems systematically without experiencing distress.
Living with Schizoaffective Disorder
Having schizoaffective disorder can make lead to problems such as relationship difficulties, unemployment, and poor physical health. You also experience a higher risk of engaging in substance abuse and self-harm behavior. Dealing with psychosis and mood disturbances can make it much more difficult to carry out everyday tasks, which is why the first step involves seeking treatment.
Even after you undergo inpatient treatment, it’s important to see your mental health practitioner from time to time. Further therapy sessions give you the opportunity to reinforce what you learned during therapy and build on your current coping skills. You’ll also need to take your medication for the prescribed period to avoid experiencing severe symptoms that impair function.
FAQs for Schizoaffective Disorder
Some of the most commonly asked questions about schizoaffective disorder treatment are as follows:
The length of your residential treatment program depends on factors such as the severity of symptoms and level of insight. Research suggests that better insight improves the occurrence of positive and negative symptoms. At URP Behavioral Health, your case manager and primary psychiatrist will prepare an initial treatment plan that lasts a few weeks and modify it on a bi-weekly basis. Long-term care for schizoaffective disorder can last between 30 to 60 days.
A combination of pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy is the best option for schizoaffective disorder. Psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, is helpful in alleviating mood symptoms that occur due to the condition and coping with difficult experiences. Additionally, seeking family therapy is an effective method to improve your relationships within the family unit. It will inform your family members how to cope with the difficulties of living with someone who has schizoaffective disorder.
One of the best coping skills for schizoaffective disorder is psychoeducational, which involves learning more about the condition and what triggers symptoms. Secondly, you can join support groups to surround yourself with people with a similar diagnosis. By interacting with a group, you learn how other people deal with the effects of their symptoms. Thirdly, you should implement self-care strategies, which include getting enough sleep, maintaining a nutritionally balanced diet, and maintaining social relationships. Another important skill involves engaging in stress-relief activities like yoga, exercise, or therapeutic massage.
According to researchers, schizoaffective episodes are triggered by environmental and biological factors. Environmental factors include highly stressful events such as abuse, neglect, isolation, and losing a loved one. Meanwhile, biological factors include changes in brain chemistry, such as an imbalance of important neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, which can contribute to psychotic and mood symptoms. Moreover, there’s a genetic component to schizoaffective disorder, so having a relative with the condition increases your risk of developing schizoaffective disorder as well.
Let Us Guide You Towards Healing
We know that seeking treatment can be overwhelming, but our staff is here to make the process as smooth as possible. We’re available 24/7 to address any questions or concerns you may have.