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Schizoaffective Disorder

Schizoaffective disorder is one of the more common, chronic, and disabling mental illnesses. As the name implies, it is characterized by a combination of symptoms of schizophrenia and an affective (mood) disorder. There has been a controversy about whether schizoaffective disorder is a type of schizophrenia or a type of mood disorder. Today, most clinicians and researchers agree that it is primarily a form of schizophrenia. Although its exact prevalence is not clear, it may range from two to five in a thousand people (- i.e., 0.2% to 0.5%). Schizoaffective disorder may account for one-fourth or even one-third of all persons with schizophrenia.

To diagnose schizoaffective disorder, a person needs to have primary symptoms of schizophrenia (such as delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, disorganized behavior) along with a period of time when he or she also has symptoms of major depression or a manic episode. (Please see the section on Mood Disorders for a detailed description of symptoms of major depression or manic episode). Accordingly, there may be two subtypes of schizoaffective disorder:

(a) Depressive subtype, characterized by major depressive episodes only, and

(b) Bipolar subtype, characterized by manic episodes with or without depressive symptoms or depressive episodes.

Differentiating schizoaffective disorder from schizophrenia and from mood disorder can be difficult. The mood symptoms in schizoaffective disorder are more prominent, and last for a substantially longer time than those in schizophrenia. Schizoaffective disorder may be distinguished from a mood disorder by the fact that delusions or hallucinations must be present in persons with schizoaffective disorder for at least two weeks in the absence of prominent mood symptoms.

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Related Links
A listing of ongoing recruiting research studies investigating schizoaffective disorder.
Facts About Schizoaffective Disorder
Information about schizoaffective disorder from UCLA’s Family Social Support Project
A listing of published research on schizoaffective disorder.

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