In short, schizoaffective disorder is a combination of both psychotic symptoms and the mood symptoms of bipolar disorder. This is explained in the name of the disorder itself, with ‘schizo’ referring to the psychotic symptoms, and ‘affective’ referring to the mood symptoms.
Now that I have explained what schizoaffective disorder is in brief, it’s time to talk about the psychotic and mood symptoms experienced due to this illness as to have a better understanding of the illness.
Psychotic symptoms include hallucinations and delusions, as well as disorganized thoughts which can cause distress. Hallucinations can be both visual and audible, as well as tactile. This means that those suffering from the illness may see, hear or feel things that actually aren’t there. It is also possible to smell things which do not exist within reality, this is called an olfactory hallucination. Delusions are a false belief which is strongly believed by the person experiencing them. They may have no to little evidence to prove these delusions, and may also talk irrationally about them. Tactile hallucinations can cause extreme distress which may result in bodily harm in order to attempt to stop the tactile hallucinations, as the sufferer does not believe they are hallucinations.
The mood symptoms of schizoaffective disorder are very similar to those of bipolar disorder. This may also be divided into subtypes, such as the ‘manic type’, ‘depressive type’ or ‘mixed type’. Those who experience both mania as well as depression who are not rapid cycling, may also be called ‘bipolar type’. However, those who do change between mania and depression within a short time will be referred to as ‘mixed type’. During manic episodes, your mood may be extremely elevated leaving you feeling euphoric, with a compulsion to be talkative, as well as making unrealistic plans which won’t be followed through with. A lack of sleep is also evident during manic episodes, which may contribute in making the mania worse. Although mania can be euphoric, it can also leave you feeling very agitated and angry with too many racing thoughts going through your head leaving you unable to think clearly. This can impair your judgement resulting in bad decision making and risk taking behaviour which could be harmful to yourself or those around you. Depressive episodes are when your mind is dominated by depression. This may leave you feeling sad, lonely, guilty, tired and unable to find any pleasure in life. If the depression is severe, you may end up feeling very apathetic. Thoughts often become gloomy and suicide ideation may occur.
What is Schizoaffective Disorder to me personally?
As a child I was always aware that I was somewhat ‘different’ to others. Although I could have had friends, I isolated myself by choice. That being said I did enjoy my childhood, although I spent most of the time in my head which I had created an imaginary world within; which I could still describe perfectly to do this day. During high school I had many friends, both close friends and merely acquaintances. I still found myself alone and different to others, as I very rarely connect to others, which is a feeling that has never left me.
I first began experiencing symptoms of depression and psychosis not long after my 13th birthday. Although that was a long time ago, I remember it almost perfectly, as I can say that was and still is one of the lowest points I have ever been at in life. The depression lasted 6 months or more. This was soon followed by episodes of extreme mania which resulted in many near death experiences and harmful behaviour in general. Personally I experience mania more often than depression, but once the depression hits, it could be any length of time before I come out of it.
Schizoaffective Disorder is the calm before the storm, the storm itself, and the aftermath. It is a continuous cycle of hell to put it honestly, yet it is a part of me, and a rather large part to say the least. Although I call it a continuous cycle of hell, I still view my life as worth living. There are ways in which this disorder can be managed effectively, though it is hard to find the correct treatment for each individual. The path to recovery may be a long one, or never ending; but I choose to walk down that path in order to provide the support and love others like myself need. If schizoaffective disorder has taught me anything, it is that helping others is far more rewarding that giving up on yourself. That’s what makes life worth living, and that is what schizoaffective disorder means to me personally.