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Difference Between Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective Disorder
If you have schizophrenia, then you may hear voices that aren’t real and see things that don’t actually exist. If you have schizoaffective disorder, then you may feel detached from reality and struggle to manage your mood. These two disorders often sound similar and have some things in common. However, understanding the difference between schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder is important to finding the right treatment and managing these conditions effectively.
What Is Schizoaffective Disorder?
Schizoaffective disorder is a mental health disorder in which a person may experience schizophrenia symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions, as well as mood disorder symptoms, such as episodes of mania and depression. People with schizoaffective disorder may also often feel out of touch with reality.
There are two types of schizoaffective disorder, both of which include symptoms of schizophrenia:
- Bipolar type: This includes episodes of mania and sometimes depression
- Depressive type: Includes only episodes of major depression
Without mental health treatment, schizoaffective disorder can lead to problems functioning at work, in school, and in social situations. As a result, a person’s social life, relationships, and career can suffer greatly.
People with schizoaffective disorder may need assistance and support in daily functioning, depending on the severity of their condition. However, the earlier one receives treatment, the better their chances of leading an independent and happy life.
What Is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is also a mental health disorder in which a person interprets their reality abnormally. Schizophrenia may lead to a combination of symptoms, including hallucinations, delusions, and disordered thinking and behavior.
Individuals with this condition may experience impaired thinking and daily functioning. They may also exhibit incoherent speech and disorganized behavior, which generally leads to a flat emotional affect in which the person shows little to no emotion and tends to speak less than the average person.
Other signs of schizophrenia include deficits in memory, attention, ability to process new information, and difficulty problem-solving. This can be a distressing and debilitating condition when it goes untreated.
Like people with schizoaffective disorder, those diagnosed with schizophrenia often require lifelong care. Therefore, the earlier one seeks schizophrenia treatment, the higher their chances of recovery and independent living despite their symptoms.
What Is the Difference Between Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective Disorder?
So how is schizoaffective disorder different from schizophrenia? If you think the two sound similar, we don’t blame you.
The difference between schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder is that people with schizoaffective disorder also experience mood disorder symptoms, such as episodes of depression and/or mania. These mood episodes are also common in people with bipolar disorder.
When someone experiences mania or a manic episode, they may feel extremely energetic, alert, and happy, or even irritable. When someone experiences an episode of depression or depressed mood, they may feel low, sad, and down for most of the day.
This can be an additional dimension of this condition that can make managing symptoms all the more complicated. Subtle differences in the symptoms between schizoaffective disorder and schizophrenia can help distinguish the two disorders when it comes to diagnosing and treating them.
For instance, a person with schizophrenia can become depressed or manic, but these mood disorder symptoms are usually prominent or a persistent aspect of their condition. A person with schizoaffective disorder, on the other hand, is likely to experience severe mood swings that account for more than half of the duration of their illness.
Additionally, the symptoms of schizophrenia tend to be persistent, whereas the symptoms of schizoaffective disorder tend to come and go. So, while people with schizophrenia may experience persistent symptoms, those with schizoaffective disorder are more likely to have frequent symptom-free intervals.
After years of research, scientists still can’t quite put their fingers on the cause of schizophrenia. They believe that chemical imbalances of neurotransmitters dopamine and glutamate might play a role in its occurrence.
Researchers also believe that the brains of people with schizophrenia look different from the brains of people without it. This difference may also indicate that the illness occurs during the development of the brain itself.
Although research on schizoaffective disorder is even more limited, scientists have managed to make more breakthroughs. For instance, researchers believe that schizoaffective disorder is caused by genes that control the body’s natural sleep and wake cycles, otherwise known as Period and Cryptochrome genes.
The diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder vs. schizophrenia is also different. As previously mentioned, mood symptoms aren’t expected to occur without psychotic symptoms in people with schizophrenia.
The psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions, are always present in these individuals, but mood symptoms may come and go. On the other hand, in people with schizoaffective disorder, psychotic symptoms may or may not be present when mood symptoms occur.
Additionally, both conditions are diagnosed by healthcare professionals with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition (DSM-5). In this manual, doctors can diagnose their patients depending on their symptoms and the duration of their symptoms in addition to other series of tests and mental health assessments.
Can Schizoaffective Disorder Turn Into Schizophrenia?
For the most part, no, schizoaffective disorder does not turn into schizophrenia. Schizoaffective disorder is a separate condition that, although considered a chronic or life-long condition, usually becomes less severe with age.
As they get older, people with schizoaffective disorder may experience fewer and less severe symptoms, especially when they’re middle-aged. The same cannot be said about people with schizophrenia.
Fortunately, while there is no cure for either condition, both are treatable and manageable with medication and behavioral therapy.
Finding Mental Health Treatment
While there’s clearly a difference between schizoaffective disorder and schizophrenia, both conditions can be properly managed with professional treatment. At our inpatient mental health rehab, we offer various forms of mental health care for individuals diagnosed with mood or psychotic disorders.
Included in our Boca behavioral health services is therapy of all kinds, including top-rated programs like dialectical and cognitive behavioral therapy. Patients receiving treatment at our mental therapy center will have the opportunity to work with our trained and highly-skilled team of professionals to understand their conditions, learn how to manage their symptoms, and develop the skills they require to live happy and fulfilling lives.
Our mental treatment center is here to help. Call Banyan Mental Health today at 888-280-4763 to learn how you or a loved one can get started today.
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