Schizoaffective disorder symptoms vary from person to person. People who have the condition experience psychotic symptoms — such as hallucinations or delusions — as well as a mood disorder. The mood disorder is either bipolar disorder (bipolar-type schizoaffective disorder) or depression (depressive-type schizoaffective disorder).
Psychotic features and mood disturbances may occur at the same time or may appear on and off interchangeably. The course of schizoaffective disorder usually features cycles of severe symptoms followed by a period of improvement, with less severe symptoms.
Signs and symptoms of schizoaffective disorder may include, among others:
- Delusions — having false, fixed beliefs
- Hallucinations, such as hearing voices
- Major depressed mood episodes
- Possible periods of manic mood or a sudden increase in energy and behavioral displays that are out of character
- Impaired occupational and social functioning
- Problems with cleanliness and physical appearance
- Paranoid thoughts and ideas
When to see a doctor
If you think someone you know may have schizoaffective disorder symptoms, talk to that person about your concerns. Although you can't force someone to seek professional help, you can offer encouragement and support and help your loved one find a qualified doctor or mental health provider.
Suicidal thoughts or behavior
Expression of suicidal thoughts or behavior may occur in someone with schizoaffective disorder. If you have a loved one who is in danger of committing suicide or has made a suicide attempt, make sure someone stays with that person. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. Or, if you think you can do so safely, take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room.
The exact cause of schizoaffective disorder is not known. A combination of factors may contribute to its development, such as:
- Genetic links
- Brain chemistry
- Brain development delays or variations
- Exposure in the womb to toxins or viral illness, or even birth complications
Factors that increase the risk of developing schizoaffective disorder include having a close biological (blood) relative who has:
- Bipolar disorder
- Schizoaffective disorder
People with schizoaffective disorder are at an increased risk of:
- Social isolation
- Anxiety disorders
- Developing alcohol or other substance abuse problems
- Significant health problems