Schizophrenia Vs Schizoaffective Disorder: What's The Difference?

Reviewed by Aaron Horn, LMFT

Published 12/22/2020

According to the Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America or SARDAA, schizophrenia impacts about 1.1% of the population worldwide. In the United States alone, 3.5 million people are living with schizophrenia. The prevalence of schizoaffective disorder, however, is only 0.3%. Schizoaffective disorder is similar to schizophrenia in some regards, but it is not the same. So, what is the difference? This article will talk about both disorders and how to differentiate the two, and how to get support for schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder.

What Is Schizoaffective Disorder?

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Schizoaffective disorder, in short, is a disorder that pairs the symptoms of schizophrenia with the symptoms of a mood disorder. The APA dictionary of psychology defines the schizoaffective disorder as "an uninterrupted illness featuring at some time a major depressive episode, manic episode, or mixed episode concurrently with characteristic symptoms of schizophrenia (e.g., delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, catatonic behavior) and, in the same period, delusions or hallucinations for at least 2 weeks in the absence of prominent mood symptoms. DSM–5 identifies the mood episodes only as either major depressive or manic and emphasizes that mood disturbances must be present for a majority of the time." To be diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, you must meet the criteria for a schizoaffective disorder listed in the most recent version of the DSM, which is currently the DSM-5.

What Is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a mental health disorder characterized by hallucinations, delusions, and other symptoms, such as disorganized thoughts and speech. There's no cure for schizophrenia, but with treatment, symptoms can improve dramatically, and a person with schizophrenia can live a full, happy life with symptom management. Symptoms of schizophrenia may include:

  • Hallucinations, which often include seeing things that aren't there or hearing voices that are not there
  • Delusions (firmly held false beliefs)
  • Social isolation or withdrawal from others
  • Disorganized thoughts or unusually disorganized speech, such as incoherent or frenzied speech. Sometimes, incoherent, choppy speech with random, seemingly unrelated words or phrases is seen in schizophrenia. This is sometimes referred to as "word salad."
  • "Negative symptoms," such as a flat affect or lack of emotion in one's facial expressions or speech, neglected personal hygiene, and a lessened ability or inability to engage in normal daily activities. In this context, negative means "taking away." Click hereto read the American Psychological Association's definition of negative symptoms
  • Withdrawal from activities one would generally enjoy, or lack of interest in those activities
  • Abnormal posture or movements
  • A low or depressed mood
  • Trouble sleeping or insomnia
  • Trouble concentrating or focusing
  • Paranoia
  • Irritability or anger

If you notice symptoms of schizophrenia in yourself, it's important to immediately reach out to a medical or mental health professional.

Schizoaffective Disorder Vs. Schizophrenia

If you compare symptoms of schizophrenia with the symptoms of schizoaffective disorder, you will see that the signs and symptoms of schizophrenia are all present, but that schizoaffective disorder includes additional symptoms that relate to mood disorders. This is because schizoaffective disorder, when put simply, is more or less schizophrenia paired with the symptoms of a mood disorder. In other words, schizoaffective disorder is a disorder that combines the symptoms of schizophrenia with the experience of a mood disorder. Someone with schizoaffective disorder will experience both schizophrenia symptoms and mood disorder related symptoms.

Schizophrenia And Schizoaffective Disorder Facts And Statistics

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Here are some facts and statistics about schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder that may surprise you:

  • There are a number of potential risk factors that may include the likelihood that a person will develop schizoaffective disorder or schizophrenia, but there is no known singular direct cause.
  • Risk factors that can increase the likelihood of developing a disorder like schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder include but are not limited to family history.
  • The term “schizoaffective” first appeared in the first version of the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, but it did not become its own diagnosis until later on.
  • According to the World Health Organization or WHO, 20 million people live with schizophrenia worldwide.
  • It is common for people with schizophrenia and related disorders to experience co-occurring or comorbid mental health conditions. Some of the most common comorbid or co-occurring mental health conditions that people with schizophrenia and related disorders struggle with are depressive disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and anxiety disorders.

Education about schizophrenia and related disorders, such as schizoaffective disorder, is incredibly vital because it destigmatizes these mental health conditions and increases people's access to support and treatment.

What Does "Schizophrenia Spectrum And Other Psychotic Disorders" Mean?

"Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders" is the name of the category where schizoaffective disorder and schizophrenia appear in the most recent version of the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. In the fifth version of the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders or DSM-5, there's a category for schizophrenia spectrum and related disorders. This category's disorders include schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, brief psychotic disorder, delusional disorder, substance/medication-induced psychotic disorder, and more.

Support For Schizophrenia And Schizoaffective Disorder

Mental health support is essential for our communities and people living in our communities. Here are some mental health help and peer support options for those living with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder.

Therapy And Psychiatry

Common therapies used for schizophrenia include cognitive behavioral therapy, frequently referred to as CBT, cognitive enhancement therapy, or CET. After schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder is diagnosed, maintenance treatment is vital. Therapy is a common treatment option that can also be combined with other treatment options, such as medications, in some cases. Always consult a medical or mental health professional such as a psychiatrist for advice and guidance on medication and specific treatment options.

Support Groups

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Support groups are one of the most popular and well-known ways to receive peer support for mental health disorders or mental health concerns, including but not limited to a post-traumatic stress disorder, grief or loss, depression, substance use disorder, and conditions like schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. To find a support group in your area, you can search the web for schizophrenia support groups near me, schizoaffective support groups near me, or you can ask for a recommendation from a specialist such as a therapist or a counselor who works with schizophrenia in your area. You might also consider using a support group locator. Here are two support group locators that you can use:

NAMI Support Groups

The national alliance on mental illness, frequently referred to simply as NAMI, was founded in 1979. It is a well-known United States-based organization that helps people with mental health conditions or concerns and raises awareness for mental health conditions, among many other achievements and pursuits meant to help people and their mental health.

Find support groups using the national alliance on mental illness or NAMI website here: https://www.nami.org/Support-Education.

SARDAA Support Groups

The Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America or SARDAA is an organization that aims to increase awareness about psychotic disorders and help people with psychotic disorders and their loved ones improve their quality of life, access to treatment, and understanding of psychotic disorders. Find support groups using the Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America website here: https://sardaa.org/schizophrenia-alliance/sa-group-locations/.

Note that there are not only support groups for people living with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder, but there are also support groups for loved ones of those living with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and other related disorders. The two support group locators above can help you find both support groups for people living with these conditions and support groups for loved ones. Support groups started as something where members met in person, and many of them still do, but nowadays, there are also voice call options and online options for those seeking a support group.

Online Support

Online forms of peer support, such as online forums, are becoming increasingly popular. Here are some free forums for schizophrenia and some free online forums for schizoaffective disorder:

Mentalhealthforum.net

Mentalhealthforum.net is a website with various message boards, frequently referred to as forums, for various mental health disorders and concerns. This website has a forum for both schizophrenia and a separate forum for schizoaffective disorder.

Click here to access the schizoaffective disorder forum on mentalhealthforum.net.

Click here to access the schizophrenia forum on mentalhealthforum.net.

Psychforums.com

Psychforums.com is another website with various message boards or forums for various mental health disorders and concerns.

Click here to access the schizophrenia forum on psychforums.com.

Take The Mind Diagnostics Schizophrenia Test

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Are you wondering if you could have symptoms of schizophrenia? If so, consider taking the Mind Diagnostics schizophrenia test. While taking the test cannot replace a diagnosis or evaluation from a medical or mental health provider, it can give insight into your symptoms, and it might be the first step to getting the help you need. The Mind Diagnostics schizophrenia test is fast, free, and confidential to take. Although schizophrenia can impact individuals under 18, the Mind Diagnostics schizophrenia test is for those aged 18 and older. After you complete the quiz and type in your email address, you'll receive your results right away.

To take the Mind Diagnostics schizophrenia test, click on this link or copy and paste it into your browser: https://www.mind-diagnostics.org/schizophrenia-test.