Schizoaffective disorder symptoms vary from person to person. Generally, people who have the condition experience psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations, disorganized thinking and paranoid thoughts as well as a mood disturbance, such as depressed or manic mood. They tend to be isolated and avoided.
Psychotic features and mood disturbances may occur at the same time or may appear on and off interchangeably. The course of the schizoaffective disorder usually features cycles of severe symptoms followed by an improved outlook. To establish a diagnosis, a person must have demonstrated, at some point, delusions or hallucinations for at least two weeks even when mood disorder symptoms are under control.
Most commonly, the mood disorder accompanying the schizophrenic features is either bipolar disorder (bipolar-type schizoaffective) or depression (depressive-type schizoaffective).
Signs and symptoms of schizoaffective disorder may include:
- Strange or unusual thoughts or perceptions
- Paranoid thoughts and ideas
- Delusions having false, fixed beliefs
- Hallucinations, such as hearing voices
- Unclear or confused thoughts (disorganized thinking)
- Bouts of depression
- Manic mood or a sudden increase in energy and behavioral displays that are out of character
- Irritability and poor temper control
- Thoughts of suicide or homicide
- A speaking style that others sometimes can't follow or understand
- Behavior at extreme ends of the normal spectrum (catatonic behavior) either appearing to be in a coma-like daze, or talking and behaving in a bizarre, hyperactive way
- Problems with attention and memory
- Lack of concern about hygiene and physical appearance
- Changes in energy and appetite
- Sleep disturbances, such as difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
When to see a doctor
If you think someone you know may have schizoaffective disorder symptoms, talk to him or her 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 and behavior are common when one has schizoaffective disorder. If you suspect or know that your loved one is considering suicide, seek immediate help. Contact a doctor, mental health provider or other health care professional.