It might become necessary to make an appointment with a psychologist or a psychiatrist if frequent mood changes are observed, vacillating between deep depression and extreme ecstasy. Even the doctor tends to get confused at times, as the individual exhibits a conglomeration of disorders—mania, schizophrenia, or a mixture of both. An accurate diagnosis of Schizoaffective disorder is arrived at, however, via an elaborate physical exam, laboratory tests to rule out physical illnesses, and a detailed past medical and family history. The psychologist also employs specifically-designed interviews and assessment tools.
Schizoaffective disorder is not a very common occurrence, and there is some controversy regarding the exact cause. Observation has revealed that parents with a previous history of the same disorder can pass it on to their children too; heredity/genetics is the contributing factor in this case. Immature individuals, who succumb to stress easily or cannot form relationships easily, are easy victims too. So, environmental factors can bring about Schizoaffective disorder. Sometimes, the imbalanced chemistry in the brain is the culprit. There are certain substances known as neurotransmitters in the brain; their function is to transfer messages from one nerve cell to another. If these chemicals are disturbed, wrong messages or incomplete messages are sent out.
The symptoms of Schizoaffective disorder are extremely varied. The signs of schizophrenia are all there—poor diction and poor communication, absence of facial expressions while speaking, complete immobility or dragging movements, presence of delusions/hallucinations and the refusal to accept reality, lack of motivation and general indulgence in odd behavior. The maniac is just the reverse—rapidity in speech, disarranged or racing thoughts, presence of a superiority complex, exhibition of agitation and restlessness in relation to work, social activity and even sexual activity, easily distracted and general indulgence in behavior that can prove dangerous to self or to others. In an advanced stage, the individual can contemplate suicide due to extreme depression and a general feeling of worthlessness. Sleeping patterns are very disturbed. Thus, all areas of life are affected.
This mental disorder does not affect the aged in general; it affects people between the ages of 16 and 30. Women get it more frequently than men. Children rarely fall prey to it.
Medications are required for stabilizing the mood swings. The choice of drugs can be varied, ranging from anti-depressants to anti-psychotics. Schizoaffective disorder cannot be treated only with medications, however. It is necessary to get the individual and family together for group counseling. Individual psychotherapy is also practiced. It is advisable to give training in special skills so that the patient can concentrate more on work and forget about illness. Hospitalization is advised for the severely affected.
This is a life-long disorder and chances of relapses are there, despite proper treatment. But social functioning is improved, and the person learns to deal with his/her illness. Hopefully, clinical trials and research may yet provide a complete cure in the future.