What Is Bipolar Schizophrenia?

Reviewed by Aaron Horn, LMFT

Published 12/22/2020

Bipolar Schizophrenia isn't a technical diagnosis or term. If someone says "bipolar Schizophrenia," it's likely that what they're actually referring to is Schizoaffective disorder. There are two types of Schizoaffective disorder, one of which is Schizoaffective disorder bipolar type, which is where a person experiences both Schizophrenia symptoms and bipolar symptoms (episodes of depression as well as episodes of mania or hypomania).The other type is Schizoaffective disorder depression type, which is where a person experiences both Schizophrenia symptoms and depressive episodes (no manic or hypomanic episodes). If this is your first time hearing the term "Schizoaffective disorder," or even if you've heard of it but aren't sure what it is, you may be confused about what exactly it means and how it differs from a Schizophrenia diagnosis. In this post, we will cover those differences and talk about the symptoms of both types of Schizoaffective disorder.

What Is Schizoaffective Disorder?

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Schizoaffective disorder is a disorder diagnosed under a category called "Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders" in the most recent and currently used version of the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders or DSM-5. Other disorders present under this category include but aren't limited to Schizophrenia, Brief Psychotic Disorder, and Delusional Disorder. Schizoaffective disorder occurs and is diagnosed when someone meets the criteria for Schizophrenia and also experiences symptoms of a mood disorder. Schizoaffective disorder, like Schizophrenia, is a chronic condition, meaning that it does not go away, but the good news is that it is treatable.

The American Psychological Association (APA) dictionary of psychology defines 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." Click here for the full APA dictionary definition of Schizoaffective disorder.

Again, someone may experience Schizoaffective disorder bipolar type or Schizoaffective disorder depression type. Below, we will go over the symptoms of Schizoaffective disorder and the differences between Schizoaffective disorder bipolar type and Schizoaffective disorder depression type.

Schizoaffective Disorder Symptoms

The symptoms seen in someone living with Schizoaffective disorder will differ based on what type they live with, but one consistent piece of criteria that must be met is that someone with Schizoaffective disorder must meet Schizophrenia's criteria as well as experiencing mood disorder symptoms.

Symptoms of Schizophrenia may include but aren't limited to:

  • Hallucinations, which often include seeing things that aren't there or hearing voices that are not there.
  • Delusions, which refer to firmly held, yet false beliefs.
  • Disorganized thoughts or disorganized speech.
  • "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.
  • Social isolation or withdrawal from other people.
  • Paranoia
  • Withdrawal from activities one would generally enjoy, or lack of interest in those activities.
  • Abnormal posture or movements.
  • A low or depressed mood.
  • Difficulty sleeping or insomnia.
  • Trouble concentrating or focusing.
  • Irritability or anger.

*Negative symptoms in Schizophrenia refer to symptoms that take something away, and positive symptoms refer to addition. The American Psychological Association or APA Dictionary defines a negative symptom as: "a deficit in the ability to perform the normal functions of living—for example, logical thinking, self-care, social interaction, and planning, initiating, and carrying out constructive actions—as shown in apathy, blunted affect, emotional withdrawal, poor rapport, and lack of spontaneity." Click here for the full APA dictionary definition of negative symptoms.

If someone lives with Schizoaffective bipolar type, they will also experience depression and mania or hypomania. Psychosis can occur anytime and not only when someone is experiencing mania, as seen in Bipolar I Disorder.

Symptoms of depression may include but aren't limited to:

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  • Loss of interest in activities one used to enjoy or would typically enjoy.
  • A low or depressed mood.
        • Trouble concentrating or focusing.
        • Sleeping too much or too little.
        • Social withdrawal or isolation from others.
        • Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, or disproportionate guilt.
        • Changes in appetite.
        • Restlessness or slowed movements.

Symptoms of mania or hypomania may include but aren't limited to:

  • A decreased need for sleep.
  • Increased and unusually high energy levels.
  • Unusual talkativeness.
  • Rapid speech.
  • Grandiosity or grandiose thinking.
  • Feelings of euphoria or agitation/irritability.
  • Impulsive or risky behavior may include excessive speeding, reckless driving, gambling, risky sexual behavior, or something else.
  • Distractibility

If someone lives with Schizoaffective depression type, they will experience periods of depression, including a low or depressed mood and other symptoms of depression. Still, they will not experience periods of mania or hypomania. That is how to differentiate Schizoaffective disorder bipolar type from Schizoaffective disorder depression type.

What Triggers Schizoaffective Disorder?

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While there are risk factors that may increase the likelihood that someone will develop Schizoaffective disorder, there is no known single or direct cause. Risk factors for Schizoaffective disorder may include but aren't limited to a family history of Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective disorder, or bipolar disorder, brain abnormalities, and stressful life events. It's said that about 0.3% of the population experiences Schizoaffective disorder, where about 1.1% live with Schizophrenia. Schizoaffective disorder is one of the most frequently misdiagnosed disorders. Many people with Schizophrenia were first diagnosed only with bipolar disorder or only with Schizophrenia, for example. Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective disorder can be challenging to live with. Still, the good news is that people with Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective disorder can lead full, happy, and rewarding lives with treatment. Again, these are treatable conditions, and if you're living with Schizophrenia or Schizoaffective disorder, you don't have to go through it alone.

Facts And Statistics On Schizoaffective Disorder

Here are some facts and statistics related to Schizoaffective disorder that may surprise you:

  • The schizoaffective disorder was first recognized as a subtype of Schizophrenia. Now, it is its own diagnosis.
  • While Schizoaffective disorder can impact people of all genders, some research says that it's more likelyto impact women.
  • To be diagnosed with Schizoaffective disorder, Schizophrenia, major depressive disorder (MDD) with psychotic features, and bipolar disorder must be ruled out.
  • It's indicated that about one-third of cases of Schizoaffective disorder occurs between the age of 25 and the age of 35, one-third of cases occur after the age of 35, and one-third of cases occur before the age of 25.

Access to information and support for people with Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders, like Schizoaffective disorder, is essential to our communities. With education, we can break the stigma surrounding Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective disorder and increase access to care and support for conditions like Schizoaffective disorder.

Support For Schizoaffective Disorder

The treatment for Schizoaffective disorder is similar to the treatment of Schizophrenia. Therapies used for Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective disorder may include cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT and cognitive enhancement therapy or CET. Family therapy may also be beneficial. After Schizophrenia or Schizoaffective disorder are 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.

While it isn't a replacement for treatment, peer support may also be advantageous to those living with Schizoaffective disorder or loved ones of those living with Schizoaffective disorder. Options like support groups and online support forums can be found easily through a web search. You can also find support group options by reaching out to a medical or mental health professional who may have some suggestions or use a search tool like the one on the SARDAA website. The Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America or SARDAA website is an excellent resource for those hoping to learn more about Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective disorder, and other related disorders.

The NAMI or National Alliance on Mental Illness website is another tool for finding support groups. Some support groups meet in person, where others meet online or via voice call. Online forums for Schizoaffective disorder and related disorders can be found on websites like mentalhealthforum.net. Click here to visit the Schizoaffective disorder forum on mentalhealthforum.net. Remember that you're not alone if you or someone you know lives with Schizoaffective disorder or Schizophrenia. Don't be afraid to reach out for help.

Take The Mind Diagnostics Schizophrenia Test

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

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