Mental illnesses have become a very broad universe that every day experts try to know in depth.
However, it is so complex and global that even detecting it can become quite a process. There are some disorders that are easy to identify because the symptoms they show are expressed in a loud and clear way, discordant with the regular behavior of a person in everyday situations of various calibers.
However, there are other mental conditions that are challenging to detect, such as schizoaffective disorder. is the case of schizoaffective disorder.. A disease that is in the middle of the emotional alterations and symptoms of schizophrenia, but that does not end up leaning completely to one side, but remains static, causing discomfort in the sufferer and bewilderment for those around him.
It is one of the least known mental illnesses of all and that is why in this article we will talk about everything related to schizoaffective disorder and how to recognize it.
What is schizoaffective disorder?
As we have just mentioned, it is a little known mental illness disorder because only a very low percentage of the population has it, and its symptoms are similar to those of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
This disorder manifests as a series of psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations (visual and/or auditory), hallucinations (visual and/or auditory), hallucinations (visual and/or auditory) (visual and/or auditory), delusions and mood swings (depression-mania). They can manifest and evolve at different levels depending on the individual.
Two types of schizoaffective disorder are distinguished: bipolar type (which appears during a major depressive or manic episode) and depressive type (which only appears during any depressive episode).
Why is it so difficult to diagnose?
The prevalence of this disorder is only 0.03% of the world population, according to the DSM-5 (Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders). But, in addition, it can be confused with a symptom of other disorders, due to its disparity at the time of manifestation and the degree of affection in each person, so it is necessary a detailed observation of a specialist on the time, duration and manifestation of symptoms in the person.
Between Schizophrenia and Bipolarity
Schizoaffective disorder is classified within the psychotic disorders of the DSM-5, sharing place with delusional disorder and schizophrenia. Therefore, it shares some of their symptomatologies, such as delusional ideas or disorganized thinking for more than one month.
But, in addition, another criterion is needed for its diagnosis, which it shares with bipolar disorder, and that is the appearance of a major depressive or manic episode. Although this has to be accompanied by previous delusional symptoms.
That is, it is a combination of some symptoms of both disorders (bipolar and schizophrenia). Manifested by a major depressive or manic state, where the person continuously manifests delusional and disorganized symptoms for more than one month.
It is precisely because of its disparity of symptoms that are combined at the same time, that it is necessary to keep a close eye on the symptoms that appear in it. It should be emphasized that they appear differently in each person and may be more inclined to may be more inclined to psychotic symptoms, as others to manic or depressive symptoms..
Criteria A of schizophrenia are strictly needed: appearance of delusional ideas, hallucinations, disorganized thinking and language for one month, but less than six months.
Symptoms of emotional disturbances, such as an episode of major depression or mania, should be present continuously for two weeks. Where the delirious episodes continue to manifest in the same way.
2. Signs and symptoms
These will depend on the type of Schizoaffective Disorder that the person has, but in essence there are the following:
2.1. Delusional episodes
Beliefs misaligned with reality, alterations in the perception of the environment, visual or auditory hallucinations, suicidal ideations, paranoid ideas, etc.
2.2. Depressive symptoms
Extreme sadness, feelings of emptiness, hopelessness, devaluation and handicap. Loss of social interest and affective relationships (corresponding to criterion A of major depressive disorder).
2.3. Manic symptoms
Sudden increase in mood, feelings of euphoria, high energy and motivation to perform risky behaviors that increase the feeling of adrenaline. In an unbalanced and dangerous way for overall health.
2.4. Disorganized thinking and language
Characterized by weak and unbalanced communication, unable to express correctly or legibly to others, due to lack of fluency and coherence.
2.5. Affections in the social sphere
People with this disorder have serious problems in the performance of their activities in the rest of the spheres of their life: work, personal, academic and social. Thus, distorting their overall quality of life.
3. Differences with Schizophrenia
It differs mainly from Schizophrenia in the following ways:
3.1. The duration time of symptoms.
In schizoaffective disorder, symptoms manifest themselves for a period equal to or longer than one month, but less than 6 months. While in schizophrenia it has to be a period of six full months.
3.2. Emotional symptoms
The appearance of emotional disturbances differentiates it from schizophrenia, since in schizophrenia only psychotic symptoms prevail. Whereas in schizoaffective disorder, mood swings are essential.
3.3. Absence of symptoms
In the case of schizophrenia, both visual and auditory delusions usually appear, however, in schizoaffective disorder the latter does not occur. Similarly, disorganized thinking is not as severe as in schizophrenia.
4. Affective symptoms
Sudden changes in mood are essential when diagnosing schizoaffective disorder. It is necessary that a minimum of two weeks occur where the person, in addition to showing psychotic symptoms, also shows an alteration in the emotional sphere.
Symptoms of depression, specifically of a major depressive episode (sadness, devaluation, loss of interest, etc.) or symptoms of hypomania (euphoria, overflowing positive mood and inclination for risky behaviors) may be present.
5. Personal neglect
The disinterest shown during this disorder is not only social but also personal. Thus, there is a notable neglect in the area of integral care (hygiene, clothing, health, physical appearance, etc.).
This is both a combination of the depressive symptoms and the appearance of delusional erroneous beliefs.
It is important to take action when there are markedly serious consequences in the spheres of life development, performance and motivation, personal neglect and when delusions develop into compulsive suicidal ideation. Therefore, a visit to a psychologist or it is recommended to visit a psychologist or psychiatrist for appropriate treatment.but in addition to having other options.
The most recommended treatment to treat any type of mental disorder is psychotherapy, since it is necessary that a mental health expert performs the corresponding psycho-technical tests for its correct diagnosis and subsequent intervention.
Individual therapy can be used, generally focused on cognitive-behavioral treatment. Where people can understand their current state, the disparity of their symptoms, break their distorted belief system and can have an adequate perception of the world. In addition to offering tools for social reassignment and self-confidence.
2. Pharmacological treatment
This is carried out in order to improve psychotic symptoms and depressive or manic episodes. So that the person can have more control over these. They must be prescribed by a psychiatrist working together with the psychotherapist and under strict supervision.
Antidepressants (to control depressive mood), antipsychotics (to reduce symptoms of delusions and hallucinations) and mood stabilizers (to maintain a balance between levels of euphoria and sadness in order to avoid mood swings) are usually prescribed.
3. Social training
These types of training serve as support to re-enter in a functional and safe way to the social, work and personal activities that the person has left stagnant. It offers coping, problem-solving and interaction tools and strategies to renew self-esteem.
Among these are training in social skills, to adapt the person adequately to his or her environment, and vocational training, to reacquire self-motivation for his or her daily performance.
4. Support and coping
It is very important that family members and close friends of a person suffering from schizoaffective disorder are also prepared to face and accept this problem. So that it can become a guide and a support for them.
So it is necessary that they are informed and learn about everything related to the disorder, to detect the signs of a relapse, attend a support workshop with the person or provide basic assistance if necessary.
5. Entertaining activities
It is also essential that the person maintains a healthy lifestyle, this will help to regulate mood swings and maintain brain health, in addition to always having healthy energy to have an excellent daily performance.
It is recommended to be physically active, eat a balanced diet, find a hobby where you can develop new skills, find relaxing activities and activities to discharge energy in a socially acceptable way that does not involve any harm to yourself.
This disorder can be controlled and its symptoms diminished to lead a full life, if it is treated in time, with awareness and if the person has an adequate support group.