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Symptoms of Schizoaffective Disorder

Rashmi Nemade, Ph.D. & Mark Dombeck, Ph.D., edited by Kathryn Patricelli, MA

Schizoaffective Disorder

sad woman Schizoaffective disorder shows both the psychotic thought problems of schizophrenia and the mood problems of major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder. It may be diagnosed when there is an uninterrupted period of illness during which the person has a major depressive or manic episode and also has the symptoms of the first criteria of schizophrenia which include 1 or more of the following happening for at least 1-month or longer:

  • Delusions - fixed, mistaken ideas that the person holds. These are often odd or incorrect ideas about themselves and the world around them.
  • Hallucinations - sensations that only the person experiences. This can include voices speaking to them that only they can hear.
  • Disorganized Speech - this can be switching topics frequently while talking, giving answers to questions that weren't asked or not being understandable by others.
  • Very Disorganized or Catatonic Behavior - this might be childlike "silliness" or being agitated or irritated without a reason, or showing no reactions to the world around them.
  • Negative Symptoms - this might be not having the full range of emotional expression that others do, having poor eye contract and little body movement; or not showing interest in participating in activities.

Additional criteria for Schizoaffective disorder include:

  • delusions or hallucinations for 2 or more weeks when a major depressive or manic episode is not happening.
  • symptoms meet the criteria for a major mood episode for the majority of the active phase and residual parts of the illness.
  • symptoms are not the result of a substance/medication taken or another medical condition.

Doctors often disagree on whether it is better to diagnose schizoaffective disorder, or to diagnose a bipolar or major depressive disorder and schizophrenia separately. There is no definite answer as to which practice is better at this time, because it is not known for sure at this time if schizoaffective disorder describes a single disease or not.