Schizoaffective disorder

Other Names:
Schizo-affective psychosis

Schizoaffective disorder (SZA, SZD or SAD) is a mental disorder characterized by abnormal thought processes and deregulated emotions. The diagnosis is made when the person has features of both schizophrenia (usually psychosis) and a mood disorder—either bipolar disorder or depression—but doesn't meet the diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia or a mood disorder separately. The main criterion for the schizoaffective disorder diagnosis is the presence of psychotic symptoms for at least two weeks without any mood symptoms present. Schizoaffective disorder is often mistaken for psychotic depression, psychotic bipolar disorder, schizophreniform disorder or schizophrenia (resulting in a misdiagnosis of schizoaffective disorder instead of one of the other disorders mentioned). The DSM-5 schizoaffective disorder criteria revision attempts to clarify problems with the diagnosis, but whether this has been achieved awaits outcome studies which haven't been completed yet. There are two types of schizoaffective disorder: the bipolar type, which is distinguished by symptoms of mania, hypomania, or mixed episode; and the depressive type, which is distinguished by symptoms of depression only. Common symptoms of the disorder include hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized speech and thinking. The onset of symptoms usually begins in young adulthood, currently with an uncertain lifetime prevalence because the disorder was redefined, but DSM-IV prevalence estimates have been less than one percent of the population, in the range of 0.5 to 0.8 percent. Diagnosis is based on observed behavior and the person's reported experiences.

Genetics, neurobiology, early and current environment, behavioral, social, and experiential components appear to be important contributory factors; some recreational and prescription drugs may cause or worsen symptoms. No single isolated organic cause has been found, but extensive evidence exists for abnormalities in the metabolism of tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4), dopamine, and glutamic acid in people with schizophrenia, psychotic mood disorders, and schizoaffective disorder. People with schizoaffective disorder are likely to have co-occurring conditions, including anxiety disorders and substance use disorders. Social problems such as long-term unemployment, poverty and homelessness are common. The average life expectancy of people with the disorder is shorter than those without it, due to increased physical health problems from an absence of health promoting behaviors such as a sedentary lifestyle, and a higher suicide rate.

The mainstay of current treatment is antipsychotic medication combined with mood stabilizer medication or antidepressant medication, or both. There is growing concern by some researchers that antidepressants may increase psychosis, mania, and long-term mood episode cycling in the disorder. When there is risk to self or others, usually early in treatment, hospitalization may be necessary. Psychiatric rehabilitation, psychotherapy, and vocational rehabilitation are very important for recovery of higher psychosocial function. As a group, people with schizoaffective disorder diagnosed using DSM-IV and ICD-10 criteria have a better outcome than people with schizophrenia, but have variable individual psychosocial functional outcomes compared to people with mood disorders, from worse to the same. Outcomes for people with DSM-5 diagnosed schizoaffective disorder depend on data from prospective cohort studies, which have not been completed yet.

In DSM-5 and ICD-10, schizoaffective disorder is in the same diagnostic class as schizophrenia, but not in the same class as mood disorders. The diagnosis was introduced in 1933, and its definition was slightly changed in the DSM-5, published in May 2013, because the DSM-IV schizoaffective disorder definition leads to excessive misdiagnosis. The changes made to the schizoaffective disorder definition were intended to make the DSM-5 diagnosis more consistent (or reliable), and to substantially reduce the use of the diagnosis. Additionally, the DSM-5 schizoaffective disorder diagnosis can no longer be used for first episode psychosis.

Broader Problems:
Problem Type:
G: Very specific problems
Date of last update
24.03.1999 – 00:00 CET