Schizoaffective disorder is the term which was coined by Dr. Jacob Kasanin in the year 1933 and it is basically a psychiatric diagnosis which describes the mental ailment having features of two conditions including schizophrenia (psychosis) and mood disorder (bipolar or depressive). Schizophrenia disorder leads to the distortion of the way a person acts, thinks, express emotions and perceives reality. On the other hand, depression is a condition which is characterized by feelings of sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness and also includes problem of remembering and concentrating on details. Due to the combination of symptoms it becomes quite difficult to treat the person suffering from this psychiatric ailment. It is a disease which affects all the areas of life including school, work, relationships as well as social contacts. People having this problem suffer from periodic episodes, called relapses, when their symptoms surface.
The symptoms of schizoaffective disorder may differ from person to person and may be severe or mild. A person suffering from this ailment experience sudden changes in mood and also psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia like delusions, hallucinations and disorganized thinking. These psychotic symptoms reflect the inability of the person to differentiate between what is imagined and what is real. Some of the other common signs of this disease are paranoid and unusual thoughts, poor control on temper, bouts of depression, suicidal and homicidal thoughts, disorganized thinking, incoherent or irrelevant speech, deficits in memory and attention, poor appetite, lack of energy and others.
The exact causes for this mental ailment is yet not known but it is believed that it involves genetic, environmental and biochemical factors. On the genetics and heredity grounds this disorder may pass from parents to their children. There is also a possibility that various environmental factors like stressful situations, viral infection and poor social interaction can trigger this psychiatric ailment among the people who have an inherited tendency to develop the disorder. Brain chemistry can also be a cause of the people suffering from this problem. When there is imbalance in certain brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, there is interference with the transmission of the message to the brain which leads to various symptoms of schizoaffective disorder.
When the symptoms of this disorder are present, a complete physical examination and study of medical history needs to be done by the doctor. Though there are no specific laboratory tests available to diagnose this problem, blood tests and X-rays can be done in order to rule out any possibility of other physical illness which might have caused the symptoms. If there are no physical reasons for the existence of symptoms then the person may be referred to the mental health professional, psychologist or a psychiatrist who is trained in diagnosing mental health issues. With the help of various assessment tools and specially designed interviews, the psychiatrist evaluates the person for any disorder. Other factors which play an important role in the diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder include uninterrupted illness, major depression and episode of mania at some point in life and psychotic symptoms without mood symptoms for at least two weeks.
The treatment for this mental illness involves medication which helps to treat the psychotic symptoms and helps in stabilizing the mood. The type of medication depends upon the mood disorder which is associated with the illness. Primary medications like anti-psychotics are used to treat the symptoms of schizophrenia like hallucinations, delusions and disordered thinking. Anti-depressant medicines and mood stabilizer like lithium can be used to treat mood related symptoms. Along with medication, psychotherapy and skills training also proves to be an effective way for improving social, coping and interpersonal skills of people suffering from schizoaffective disorder.
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