The Difference Between Schizoaffective Disorder and Schizophrenia


Schizophrenia pic

Psychiatrist Carol Lynn Childers, MD, works with patients at two Heartland Health Centers facilities in the Chicago area. At one Heartland facility, Trilogy Behavioral Healthcare, Inc., Carol Lynn Childers, MD, works with patients who have serious mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorders.

Although it is rare, schizophrenia is one of the most talked about serious mental illnesses. It affects roughly one percent of the population and is characterized by hallucinations, delusions, general apathy, and disorganized speech and behavior. These symptoms last at least six months, unless they are treated, and interfere with relationships, self-care, or work.

Many of these positive psychotic symptoms and negative symptoms, like social withdrawal and cognitive difficulties, are shared by another serious mental illness: schizoaffective disorder. In essence, schizoaffective disorder is a blend of schizophrenia and a mood disorder. Because of the involvement of a mood disorder, there are two categories of schizoaffective disorder: bipolar and depressive.

People with the bipolar type of schizoaffective disorder experience both depressive episodes and manic episodes alongside the psychotic symptoms characteristic of schizophrenia. Meanwhile, those with the depressive type of schizoaffective disorder only experience depressive episodes.

While some people with schizophrenia do experience these mood episodes as a response to their illness, this not the case with people who have schizoaffective disorder. Rather, those with schizoaffective disorder experience mood episodes independently of their psychosis. It is neither a response to psychotic experiences, nor a temporary result of external factors.