What Is Schizoaffective Disorder?

by GirlShrink · 74 comments

in Relationship Dating,Schizoaffective Disorder

Schizoaffective disorder is a psychiatric diagnosis describing a situation where both the symptoms of mood disorder and psychosis are present. The disorder usually begins in early adulthood, and is more common in women. There are two sub-types of schizoaffective disorder: the bipolar type type and the depressive type. The bipolar type has a better prognosis than the depressive type, which can have a residual defect with the passing of time. Bipolar schizoaffective disorder is more similar to bipolar disorder than schizophrenia. People with bipolar disorder may also suffer from isolated episodes of schizoaffective disorders.

Signs & Symptoms of Schizoaffective Disorder
The following are the criteria for a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV):

A. Two (or more) of the following symptoms are present for the majority of a one-month period:

disorganized speech (e.g., frequent derailment or incoherence)
grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior
negative symptoms (i.e., affective flattening, alogia, or avolition)

Note: Only one of these symptoms is required if delusions are bizarre or hallucinations consist of a voice keeping up a running commentary on the person’s behavior or thoughts, or two or more voices conversing with each other.

AND at some time there is either a:

major depressive episode
manic episode
mixed episode

B. During the same period of illness, there have been delusions or hallucinations for at least two weeks in the absence of prominent mood symptoms.

C. Symptoms that meet criteria for a mood episode are present for a substantial portion of the total duration of the active and residual periods of the illness.

D. The disturbance is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication) or a general medical condition.

Bipolar Type – if the disturbance includes:
manic episode
mixed episode
manic and major depressive episodes
mixed and major depressive episode

Depressive Type – if the disturbance inludes major depressive episodes exclusively.

Treatment for Schizoaffective Disorder
The psychiatric treatment for schizoaffective disorder is a combination of therapy and medicine. A licensed psychiatrist will prescribe different combinations of medicine to the patient in order to find the combination that works. Each person responds differently to medicine.

Common medicines used to treat schizoaffective disorder:
Depakote ER

Often a sleeping pill will initially be prescribed to allow the patient rest from his or her anxiety or hallucinations.

Lisa Angelettie, M.S.W., is a psychotherapist, author, and life coach. She has been helping people make smarter life choices since 1998. Get more free tips like this when you subscribe to the GirlShrink newsletter .

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  • LindyWilson40

    I have a few diagnosis, 2.  I don’t have this, but I “think,” my husband has this.  I wanted 2 hear a positive view of it n I thank you 4 ur courage 2 share.  It helped me.  He is not n the home w/ me n our daughter.  I have gone 2 many years and kinds of therapy n taken medicines 4 Major Depression n bad Anxiety n that’s all I’ll share on that, but I was able 2 get better, not cured, but better n I want him 2, 2.  I love him.  Interested n any new treatments if I can get him 2 go 2 them, though.  This marriage was put together by God so I don’t know what He’s expecting of me, but I start w/ focusing on being longsuffering, but I can’t when it comes 2 him being mean financially.  I wish we could work it all out n it’d b nice n easy & he’d b willin’.  Please pray 4 us.  Thanks

  • em

    im falling in love with a man who has a schizoaffective disorder. half of me is terrified. half of me wouldnt leave for the world.

  • Delorean Jean

    Oh honey, I feel the same way alot. I was diagnosed with SchizoAffective Disorder after suffering for 25 years. We are going to be ok eventually. My grandma and aunt (the people that raised me) thought I was acting to get attention and ignored me although I’ve been ill since I was 5. As I got older I noticed I got angrier and moodier and my narcissistic mother was making it worse. When I was 5 I told her that people talk to me and I see things-she dragged me to church and had the pastor get the “demons” out. The mental, emotional, verbal and physical abuse I suffered as a child forced me to retreat into my own mind, so to speak, and now these people are still there. I still feel like I want to die, I still suffer from all that, but there are moments of clarity when I know I can overcome this. I can’t concentrate in school either, the channels in my mind change often and I have no friends. I realized who they really were when I lost everything years ago. Give up those fake friends, u don’t need them. I’m sure you can get new ones in therapy. You may someone who understands what you’re going through. Or at least a listening ear. Stay away from drugs or alcohol, you know it only makes things worse. I got drunk once and hopped on my scooter and damn near killed myself. You’re not a failure! You’re beautiful, and smart! If you were a failure you wouldn’t be in school! You wouldn’t want to finish and make something of yourself. You’re trying, that’s a great thing. You’re not letting this thing beat you. You can beAt this.

  • Elaiacona

    you are lucky my fiance became violent and was hospitalized only to never be the same again and hating me, psychotic …i am heartbroken we were so in love and his personality dissapeared.

  • nicole

    Your advice was well taken. Seven months later, we are now divorced. it turns out he had another life that he had been living for 2 of the four years we were married, we were together for six total. This entailed affairs, financial overspending to truly remarkable degrees (six figures), alcohol abuse, drug abuse, prescription drug abuse, and ultimately inability to function on a basic level – not getting out of bed for days and not caring for his children. It was the affairs that were the last straw – even when he had left his career and determined to be a long haul truck driver – about as big of an about face as you could make. 

    While his career choice didn’t cause me to file for divorce, or really any one of the many things uncovered would have pushed me to finally end this – the discovery of his many other arrangements demonstrated a hard truth to me – he was not able or interested in helping himself become healthy. He had the benefit of any and all psychological help, doctors, professionals and even residential treatment. But every professional gave him the same recommendations – stop substance abuse, stay on the medications, stay in therapy, do the work. He refused to stick with any program, would not stay on any medication, would not continue therapy and even more so – would not give up the things that would impact his ability to take advantage of the medications – alcohol and drugs. 

    Putting it all together, he hit the limits of the support i could give – because no matter how much support I could give, he would not meet me even close to halfway. While it may be because he was not capable of it, he was capable of making other decisions that were far more destructive. It is tremendously painful to watch him self destruct and I continually hope he finds his way out. 

    We try to remain friends but he has tremendous resentment towards me. However, I know I saved myself. I saved his girls who now life full time with their mother. And ultimately, I hope he finds the strength to save himself. 

  • T Rivs

    Hey I hope someone reads this since it’s been some time since the last post, my boyfriend was diagnosed with this illness lady week..is Zyprexa a good drug to be on will he feel better? I read that this drug makes a person sleep 12_14 hours daily and zombie like can someone help?? Thanks, Trish

  • Cssbyers

    My husband is also diagnosed with this disorder. Like others, he can be the most amazing man and husband and step dad. Then if having an outburtst or depressive episode, it is like he is gone and someone replaced him with a guy who sleeps, gets harsh, and just doesn’t seem to think rationally anymore. I am there with him now in this. I love him. I want the best for him.  It is hard being the S.O. or spouse. You see the person you fell in love with being robbed by a disease to return when meds works to disappear again. It is very hard and creates such pain.

  • Jes


    I am in a similar situation.  I don’t know what to do.  My husband and I have been together for 8 years and we married a year and a half ago when I found out I was pregnant.  My husband has been on a downward spiral for about a two year period where he got progressively worse.  When I finally left him, he sought help and was diagnosed 5 months ago.

    He is responding well to treatment it seems like he is responding well, but it doesn’t change what happened.  I want him to get well, but I can’t ever imagine living with him.  I am scared of divorcing him and having to share custody of our child. 

    How do I find the courage to divorce him?  I feel so heartless, but I know I need to think about my son and myself.  I want to save myself from any further abuse. I guess I’m just posting to let you know someone else relates to everything you’ve said. 

    I’m lost, desperate, and doing everything I can to hold it together and be the best single mom I can be. 

  • Confused_girlfriend

    My boyfriend was diagnosed with Schizoaffective disorder before we started dating. I’m 18yrs old and he’s 21. We’ve officially been together for 3 yrs now and I know one may think I’m too young to know what love is and etc but I honestly do love him. He’s an amazing guy; not only as a boyfriend but as a friend. About two months ago his behavior started to change, we would fight just about every night and I just didn’t feel the love anymore. After once psychotic episode, he finally told me about his illness and said that he couldn’t take it any more, he hated being controlled and he wanted to commit suicide. I talked him out of it and told him that we needed to get him some help. After that, his behavior became worst where he would isolate himself for me. And like I said, I’m young myself and have a lot of problems of my own so sometimes I get really aggravated and tell him I can’t take it any more ………. Then he threatens to kill himself. He really has no one. Also, I am the only one aware of his illness. He should be picking up his prescribed meds in two days … Idk what to do!!! I need help please. And just keep him in your prayers and I’ll keep you and your loved ones in mines.

    But help, how am I supposed to handle this situation?

  • Irene2110

    Hi, Its more common than people think, My brother started hearing voices on xmas day four years ago, he is 29 now. Mum & me live with him & its the hardest thing in the world, as he has manic episodes & yells about the tormenting voices, plays loud music, 2 songs at the same time & is quite unrealistic. Watching him like a lost child in pain, It breaks our hearts every day, its hard. He is worth it though, we love him so much. I wish you & everyone who lives with this illness all the best. Try niacin b3, Dr Hoffer cure, its the only thing known to have cured this illness -x-

  • The Girlfriend

    Hello, I am 46 and I’m a girlfriend to a “single” father of two children (8 and 10 years old).  The father, my boyfriend, just received sole legal and physical custody of his two beautiful children, this past spring. The children’s mother was diagnosed over 15 years ago with schizo-affective disorder- bipolar type, along with histrionic and narcissistic personality disorders. How so very sad it is to see a Mother lose her children, so to speak, because she has been afflicted, unfairly so, of these mental illnesses.  The Mother loves her children and very much. I can see it and so very clearly, underneath and behind her disorders and diagnoses.
    I have guilt that I have the privilege of being a part of her children’s lives in the way that she was supposed to. And, mixed with lots of this guilt, I feel blessed that I have the ability to make a positive impact on her children’s lives.
    The children were a dream come true to her. I knew of the Mother when she was in the midst of trying to conceive and I knew of her when she was pregnant. Her face glowed and she was at one with life, in a way that I never witnessed about her, before, during these times. She was happy and she was unsure. She wanted her children and she also knew that she didn’t know much about motherhood. She felt blessed and anxious, at the same time. But, she was focused and determined to move forward with her fear and to learn about how to be a Mom, to the best of her ability.
    10 years later, after giving birth to her second child, her dream of being a mother died and it came crashing down on her.  She stopped taking her antipsychotics shortly after the children were both born. She stopped going to talk therapy.  Her delusions came back. Her paranoia kicked into high gear. The bipolar and the mania rose to an all time new height. Her marriage died, by her own choosing. She told her husband that she was in love with another man (a former therapist) and that they were going to get married and have another child. She filed for a divorce in short order. The delusions about being in a romantic relationship with her former therapist (who she hadn’t seen in over 10 years) lasted for three years. She filed for modification of custody of the children, requesting sole legal and physical custody of them, only having had joint custody for one year, after the absolute divorce was granted. She was having what I would call delusions of grandeur, where she thought she could handle it all. She moved 6 times in two years, after the marital separation, all of these moves ending in evictions.  She’s lost a couple of jobs while attempting to return to the work world. She’s lost friendships. She continues to struggle with familial relationships. Her relationship with her children has started to slowly deteriorate.
    The Father is very loving with the children and he makes a good wage, giving him the ability to raise the children in a middle class lifestyle. He is on a learning curve, with figuring out how to multi task, cook, wash clothes, discipline without guilt, develop moral and value standards and stay consistent with his teachings, with the children. We are also learning how to balance our relationship time together, with the children and with time to ourselves. The children are adjusting, too. We are all fortunate to have known one another, well and to have bonded before the custody change took place. The children are confused. Their Mom died, so to speak, in their minds. They are hungry for a woman who can nurture them, to fill the void that has been created in what used to be their Mom’s spot in their lives. They are also angry and depressed, with anxiety attacks in between. They are hopeful and yet feel guilty, with their new balanced and more normalized lives. They are angry that their Mom didn’t and won’t give them the life that they have with their Dad. They take their Mom’s mental illness personally at times, not understanding why she just won’t get better “for them”.
     The Father is currently in the midst of modifying visitation rights and arrangements within the relatively new Custody Modification Order, as the Mother is having difficulty complying with the very basic terms and conditions set forth in the new Modification Custody Order for the current supervised visitations provisions. We are researching private Therapeutic Visitation Supervisors to participate in the new visitation arrangement, that we hope, the Courts will grant for visitations between the Mother and the children. The children and the Mother need help with their new relationship as it exists under the new terms of the modified custody arrangements. The children are worn out and stressed after their visitations with Mom; Mom, I believe, feels frustrated at the end of the visitations because the children are becoming healthier, with time, while she continues to struggle with her mental illnesses that are now coupled with the loss of her children.  The Mother defies, is belligerent and deceitful. She manipulates and interrogates the children during visitations. She taunts them with their old personal belongings that they long to have with them, in their new lives, in order to feel more secure. She talks negatively about their Father during the visits together. The children claim that their Mom stalks them while at school, watching them during recess and lunch time breaks, from anonymous friends’ cars. She attempts to lure them away from the Visitation Supervisors during visits, inviting them to go for a car ride, walks with the dog, down the street and outside of the neighborhoods. The current Supervisors are mutually agreed upon volunteers who both the father and the mother know of or feel they can trust to oversee the visitations.  They are civilians who are not court appointed or licensed in the field of mental health. It has become very clear in short order that the role of Visitation Supervisor for these people has become overwhelming and too tasking. The mother imposes her will on them, imposes her rage episodes and belligerent defiance onto them, when not getting her way. Most recently, her paranoid ideations came about when the Visit Supervisor acted appropriately and intervened during a visitation, between the Mother and the child and called the father in order that the daughter could receive moral support from him in order to finish the visitation with her mother, as successfully as possible. This Supervisor has since informed the father that she might not be able to continue as a Supervisor.
    I need to pray more for the Mom. I want her to get better and I want her to be with the children more and have a more quality relationship with them. The children miss their Mom that they thought they had; they grieve their idea of her. I am not certain what’s to come and I know that I am powerless over this situation. I can only be a good friend to the children and hope to have camaraderie, with their Mom, if & when she ever decides to consider this type of relationship with me. I would be sure to help her instill those desirable and good willed values and ways that she would want for her children, if we had a relationship. I advocate for a more positive relationship between the kids and their Mom and help see through, for the Mom, what she would want for the kids, as they grow and become an extension of her.  I support her desire for them to attend church and for them to earn good grades and be mannerly with others. I enrolled them in a local church to continue RE classes and I help them with their homework. I read to them and take them to the library, just like she did with her children, when she had joint custody of them.
    Schizo-affective disorder – bipolar type, along with the other personality disorders that the Mom has been stricken with, are baffling, cunning, and overwhelming for all involved.  I watch this very sad situation unfold and I ask myself “Why?”; why is this Mother afflicted with her multiple mental illnesses? How can I be a trusted servant to her and her beautiful children in the midst of it all? How can I be an instrument to God with the Mom and the children? How can I continue to be a good friend to the Father, yet stay detached and allow him the dignity to grow and accept all that has come about, with in his new life? While I love him very much and feel just the same about the beautiful children, can I accept this life with him? Can I stay balanced and detached and yet emotionally available for both me and for the others, in this Unit, that best serves us all, for the rest of our lives together? I don’t know.  I need to continue to turn my will and my life over to the care of God. I need to remember that I am powerless over the Mom’s illness, its impact on the Father and the children. I need to remain focused on me, keeping my hands off of what is not mine and remain focused on what is mine, ever reminding myself to accept the things I cannot change and the courage to change the things I can, with the wisdom to know the difference.
    I met these people for a reason, I really believe. I will continue to walk this path, with God. Thank you for listening.  Let’s pray for the mentally ill. They have been dealt a hand of cards that none of us would wish on our worst enemy. They deserve the dignity, respect and love as our fellow child of God. Let’s walk with them, hand in hand and give to them the gifts that we have received in our own lives. A gift isn’t a gift unless you give it away.  Let’s open our hands and our hearts in order that we can continue to receive the priceless gift of empathy and understanding that in turn, we can give to those who suffer from the horrendousness of mental illness. In love, the girlfriend xoxo

  • Latinmaria08


  • Timaflower

    I am a mother of three young children.. at age thirty eight I was diagnosed with having psychioaffective bi polar disord. I do not work its a struggle everyday just to get up from bed and do my daily routines of taking care of my children.I am better now I take ability and klonopin.they work for me thank god. My question is what are the chances that I may pass this horrible illness to my children? My daughter who is 14 is diagnosed with having mood disorder not yet specified..thank you..tima

  • Char

    I can relate to what you are saying, Jes.  My husband of four years was diagnosed schizoaffective one year into our marriage.  He seems to be high-functioning, based on the fact that he’s stuck out almost two years of graduate school and has some idea of what he’d do once he graduated.  It’s just scary when he goes into slumps–talking about seriously changing our life plans (selling our house and moving, for reasons that seem illogical at best).  At times, he blames our marriage for his health problems, and I don’t know what to think.  It’s hurtful, but maybe he’s right!?  Marriage is stressful, even in the best of marriages.  Stress triggers the psychotic elements of his disorder.  

    I’ve come to the slow realization that I would be risking a lot to have kids with my husband.  While I’ve never been 100% sure I wanted kids, the idea of definitely ruling them out of my life is heartbreaking.  But I couldn’t run the risk of them inheriting this disorder, and I don’t know if I could handle the strain of taking care of my husband as well as kids.

    This leads me to consider divorce.  It feels absolutely unfair–the disease has high-jacked both of our lives and dreams.  And yet, what can I do?  I know he needs love and care, and as much as I want him to have those things, I don’t know that being the “sacrificial lamb” to his illness will truly help him or me in the end.  

    It’s a hard choice.

  • Meg

    My husband had good luck with Saphris, but its side effects (blurry vision) unfortunately necessitated him coming off it.  He seemed better able to focus, although was a little socially edgy.  Now he’s on Abilify…no more vision problems, better socially, but not as able to focus.

  • Annetta

    I am currently going through the same thing.  I have known this man for 20 years, a gifted musician and highly intelligent.  he was diagnosed with the disorder and recently came back into my life.  I am going through a Divorce but I am falling for him all over again but I am terrified because I do not know what the future holds or what to expect>  At this moment I am willing to see where the journey takes us becasue I do love him.

  • Michelle Nebel

    My husband can be the the most amazing man for awhile then its like someone puts the devil in him!  He just snaps and gets abusive and calls me horrible names!  I have dealt with this for six years, I think about leaving but I don’t want his mom to have to deal with this!  I cry everyday because I feel sorry for him being trapped in this world he is in.  I need support from people who are dealing with this.  I don’t have bipolar- schizaffective  but I am a victim of it!!!

  • Michelle Nebel

    I so know how you feel!!!  My husband of 6 years was having an episode and told me he was so done with me cause I work for the cops! And then he got in my face and it didn’t even matter I was crying,  The thing is I don’t work for the cops!  Help!!!

  • Leeanne Thomas

    My Ex was diagnosed after we had been together 17 years, and he changed completely, I could no longer rely on him for anything, he gave me no support, and I just felt like I had another child to look after. Life was always all about him, how he was feeling etc and nothing I did was good enough dispite almost pushing myself to my absolute limit for him. In the end I made the decision to leave, and I can’t beleive how much weight has been lifted from my shoulders.  I am finally feeling like I matter now, and I can make decisions not based on how he is or how he is feeling.  Kids are so much more settled too not having him around all the time. Ask yourself, Do you matter too?

  • wishing i could help her…

    i have an ex girlfriend whom i love more than anything in this world and would do anything for. but she changes day by day one day she is so in love with me but the next day she may hate me and want nothing to do with me i don’t want to give up hope or give up on her or us because we have a ten month old daughter together but it is really hard.. :( does it ever get better

  • Some


  • Tamiann213

    I desperately need someone to email me and discuss with me what I can expect in the future with my husband. We are currently separated and I am living with my parents. He was diagnosed with this disorder this summer. The trouble in our marriage or relationship is that i cant deal with his paranoia and the lack of trust he has for me when it comes to other guys etc. He is super controlling. My counselor said last week to me that being paranoid and controlling go hand and hand. He comes up with the strangest accusations. I added my parent’s friend to my phone contacts. Well I am 48 and my parents friend is in his 70?s and he texted me to tell me that he wasnt coming over to have coffee with my parents etc. Well my husband freaked out and started asking all kinds of guestions etc and now supposily he has even called this old man and has told him never to contact me again. Then my husband tells me that I need to get rid of this mans contact info and if I dont then it proves to him that I wont put his (my husbands) feeling first. I have done nothing wrong! He doesnt understand why I dont want to visit him and go on dates with him etc… well geez he makes me feel like crap so why would I. It has seemed like its been one foot forward in our marriage and 2 steps back because of him. Recently he has gone off of all his meds and now he isnt sleeping at all at night …so he tells me and the reason why is because he has horrible nighmares. He has become very very religious very very quickly.He says the the Lord has healed him. I want to believe this so bad but when he is controlling and paranoid about this 70 yr old man etc… I dont believe that he has been healed. I feel like I am going crazy trying to figure this all out and wanting desperatly a relationship with him but fear he is never gonna get better and I wont be able to deal with it.Thanks for listening. Tamiann213@gmail.com Northern Minnesota

  • http://LisaAngelettieBlog.com Lisa Angelettie

    I hope a member of the community with this experience response to your message, but I just wanted to start the discussion off by saying that it is going to be very difficult to manage a relationship with someone who is off his meds. Create strong boundaries in your relationship with him. If he crosses them, then you have to protect yourself first and get out. Support him from a distance.

  • Freyday37

    I found my self in a recent relationship with a man who is schizoaffective.  I need to understand more about this because I end up thinking the non-emotion is just me and that he doesnt like me.  He is so touch and go all the time and I think its because of his diagnosis, and not me, but many times I feel like its me.  He doesnt say much, if anything at all, about how pretty I look or sexy I am.  But yet, I found him on websites making comments to other girls on how sexy, beautiful and pretty they are.  i dont understand this.  Please help me understand how this relates to his shcizoaffective.  I think that he is being his true self with me and that through the internet he can be someone he isnt and its the only way he is able to be ‘normal’.       

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