Sex and Schizoaffective Disorder

I have found that due to the nature of this subject, few people are willing to talk about it or address it as an issue. Many people tend to view sex as a sensitive subject any way, however, this does lead to a complete lack of information as well as misinformation being spread which should be avoided.

Schizoaffective disorder and the medication used to treat the disorder are capable of causing issues with sexual functioning and sex itself. However, it can be hard to tell whether the individual is experiencing these problems because of the disorder or the medication itself. They both have the potential to cause the same issues. These issues will affect and occur in men and women slightly differently due to physical anatomy, it is merely the same problems presenting themselves differently when applied to different genitalia.

As schizoaffective disorder can cause people to experience a number of different mental states, this will also result in a difference in symptoms and how those symptoms affect that individual.

An individual may engage in risky sexual behaviour whilst manic. There is also the possibility for the individual to experience a symptom known as hypersexuality when they are in a manic state. Hypersexuality is the increased need and sometimes pressure for sexual gratification that can occur during an episode of mania. However, this can cause a vast range of problems, not just the act of engaging in sexual acts excessively. It can lead to extremely distressing and inappropriate sexual thoughts, as well as impulsive sexual behaviour. Hypersexuality does not affect every individual who experiences mania, and it can occur in a variation of severity.

Depression and the negative symptoms of schizophrenia will affect sex quite differently to mania. Those who experience depression will know that the fatigue it brings with it can be debilitating, depression and the negative symptoms of schizophrenia can also take away the pleasure from things that you once enjoyed. An individual who is depressed or currently experiencing the negative symptoms of schizophrenia may find that their libido has decreased significantly, and that they simply have no desire to engage in sexual activity. The individual experiencing these states may also find that they are experiencing orgasm dysfunction, meaning that they find it difficult to achieve an orgasm, the orgasm is of lower quality, or that they cannot orgasm at all; even with more than adequate stimulation.

When an individual is within the midst of a severe psychotic, manic, depressed or mixed episode, they may find that they are sexually uninhibited or having sexual urges which are completely out of character; this may also lead to engaging in inappropriate sexual behaviour.

The Effects of Medication in Sex

Anti-psychotic medication is used to treat schizophrenia and schizo-spectrum disorders, including schizoaffective disorder. Anti-psychotic medication can cause a vast range of side effects, including some that may affect your sexual life and sexual function. However, it is important to note that medication will affect each person differently, and some individuals may experience no side effects, whereas others may experience a large amount of side effects. If you are experiencing side effects, be sure to bring these issues up during your next appointment with your doctor or psychiatrist.

The two most common side effects of medication in sex, is a decrease in your libido and the reduced ability to achieve an orgasm, which applies to both men and women. However, similarly to how schizoaffective disorder will affect sex and the sexual functioning of different genders differently, as will the medication.

The most common sexual side effect of anti-psychotic medication in men is both erection and ejaculation disturbances. This may include delayed, inhibited, or spontaneous ejaculation. Men may also experience priaprism, which is a medical condition that causes a persistent and painful erection of the penis, which lasts for several hours or more.

Women may experience orgasm dysfunction, such as the ability to achieve an orgasm, the quality of that orgasm, and anorgasmia (the persistent inability to orgasm, even with ample stimulation) due to the use of anti-psychotic medication. They may also find that they experience menstrual irregularities, dyspareunia (difficult or painful intercourse), vaginal atrophy (thinning of the vaginal walls caused by decreased oestrogen levels), as well as vaginal dryness.

 

With the existence of misunderstanding and the lack of information surrounding sex as a person with schizoaffective disorder will of course lead to some misconceptions. Suffering from schizoaffective disorder or using anti-psychotic medication will not necessarily ruin sex for you, you are more than likely to experience difficulties at times, but this does not mean that sex will be rendered not pleasurable. You will still be able to have sex and find it to be enjoyable, it is also very likely that any problems you do experienced can be managed or corrected in one way or another.

In short, sex as a person with schizoaffective disorder is not a whole lot different. You can expect to have some struggles and difficulties at times, though typically these can all be overcome; especially with time. Those who suffer from chronic mental illnesses do learn to adapt to their mental illnesses, meaning that they can deal with and manage different aspects of their mental illness more effectively. It is also important to note that the problems experienced by individuals with schizoaffective disorder or by those who take medication are completely normal problems, which can affect anyone; not just those with the illness or the users of anti-psychotic medication.

If you do experience any of the problems mentioned above, talk about it with your doctor or psychiatrist and they may be able to find a solution for you.

Friendships as a Person with Schizoaffective Disorder

Although I have previously wrote about romantic relationships on more than one occasion, I have never touched upon the subject of friendships. Since we are born, interacting with others, making friendships, and maintaining a social life is an important aspect of life; however, with a mental illness thrown into the mix, it can be quite a different story.

To begin, throughout my life I have always been rather introverted and more of a loner by choice. I have never truly understood the social aspect of life, or how others rely so heavily upon it. However, I have had a lot of friends throughout all of my life, particularly in school. I was never bullied or left out of things, in fact, I was very lucky to have the friendships and social life that I did. By the time I reached the age of 16 and finally left secondary school I experienced my first full blown psychotic episode. I was almost constantly hallucinating vividly, I was extremely paranoid and would rarely leave the safety of my bedroom; I had withdrawn myself completely from all social aspects of life.

For the next year, I was to remain this way. Once I began college in the September of 2015 at the age of 17, I was quickly reunited with old friends; as well as meeting many new friends. I did manage to somewhat successfully maintain a social life for a month; though it must be noted that I was in the midsts of a manic episode at this point. However, this all ended horrendously a mere month after college began Once the mania began to subside, I was immersed in what I believe to be the worst depressive episode that I have ever experienced, I was also moderately psychotic during this episode. Similarly to when I first left secondary school, I completely isolated myself once again. I will write about both my secondary school (high school) and college experiences another time, as they are both worthy of an entire article.

After leaving college, the remnants of my social life were to be find through my job at the time; however due to my mental illness I ended up leaving that job in the December of 2015. Therefore abolishing my social life in its entirety.

I have not changed since, nor have I ‘hung out’ with anyone since then. I do have a moderate group of acquaintances, although I rarely see them, and when I do we merely exchange a few words. I have two close friends, who are without a doubt my best friends; and although we may not be in the position to see each other as much as we’d like, I know that they are the people who would be there for them if I needed them, and vice versa. The only other friendships which I feel are worth mentioning are that of online friends, some of the best people I have ever had the privilege of talking to I have met online, and they are of as much significance as those you may meet face to face.

I am a very socially inept being. I remain isolated and withdrawn from the social aspect of life, for numerous reasons. I cannot handle face to face / physical interaction, as my mental illness makes it almost impossible for me. I have severe communicational problems, and all of my symptoms collectively contribute towards my lack of a social life and my ability to maintain one. However, I do not have a problem with this. I do not like people in general, and much prefer to be alone; I have no desire to establish and maintain friendships, though I do value the ones that I have very highly, and I am open to making new friendships.

Overall, as a person with schizoaffective disorder, establishing and maintaining a social life is not my forte.

Caring for Someone with Schizoaffective Disorder

Throughout the duration of your life you may find that a member of your family, friends or even your significant other has fallen victim to schizoaffective disorder. Anyone could fall victim to this illness at any time, if you do happen to find yourself in this situation knowing how to care for someone with schizoaffective disorder is extremely important and useful; not only will it improve the quality of their life, but also yours. Seeing someone you care about suffer from schizoaffective disorder can be very distressing, though I think it is important to remember that it is more distressing for the individual suffering from the disorder.

In order to be able to care for another person under any given circumstances, you must be able to look after yourself first, and ensure that you are well enough to be looking after a person. This is incredibly important when it comes to caring for someone with a mental illness, as it can be very stressful and tiring to look after the said individual. However, retaining the necessary knowledge that is needed to care for a person with schizoaffective disorder can minimise the amount of stress and fatigue that it may cause. It is also helpful to remember to focus on how the individual is feeling, rather than focusing on what they are experiencing; accepting that the hallucinations they experience are real to them is also of great significance.

If you are caring for someone with schizoaffective disorder, you should understand the illness and it’s symptoms, therefore it is important to educate yourself about the illness and how it affects the individual; otherwise you will not know how to care for them. This way you will know how to handle setbacks and how to move towards recovery, which is the aim after all. However, you need to be realistic about how quick the recovery process will be, as well as how they cope and deal with their symptoms. You must be patient with the process of recovery, there is no short cut or quick fix available for those who are mentally ill. As the symptoms of the illness and episodes it entails can be triggered by stress or stressful situations, this factor needs to be reduced. You should create a supportive and stable environment for the individual in order to aid the recovery process. Although you are caring for the person, you also need to allow for and encourage that person to have independence, otherwise they are not truly recovering.

When caring for a person with schizoaffective disorder or any other mental illness, you need to learn their warning signs and triggers; this way you can either avoid episodes, or at least be aware that they are occurring. Quite often the best way to achieve this is done by simply talking to them, most of the people who are mentally ill will know what their warning signs and triggers are. If they are unaware of what their warning signs and triggers could be, encourage them to try and work them out with or without your assistance. Supporting and encouraging the individual to get professional treatment is perhaps one of the biggest steps towards recovery, as although you may be caring for them, you cannot provide them with the treatments that they require. When the individual is attending appointments or similar events and is not comfortable with going to that location, be sure to accompany them as this can be of great comfort. Encourage the individual to look after themselves if you have noticed a decline in their well being or physical appearance. The decisions made by the individual are to be respected, and you should not be forcing any decisions or opinions upon them, even if you believe that is what’s best for the individual.

It is important that you do not make any assumptions when it comes to the said persons health, experiences, opinions, or anything for that matter. A change in mood is not always representative of an oncoming episode, and it is very possible to experience a range of emotions whilst remaining relatively stable.

Caring for a person with schizoaffective disorder can be difficult, yet you are making a great difference to that persons life. If you do care for someone with schizoaffective disorder, or are going to care for someone who suffers from the disorder, you are doing a wonderful and amazing thing; which that person will never be thankful enough for, as I have been there myself.

Relationships as a Person with Schizoaffective Disorder

Romantic relationships are something almost all of us will experience or desire at some stage in our life. All relationships will come with their ups and downs, and can be difficult enough without the addition of a mental illness, or more than one mental illness thrown into the mix. I have wrote about the matter of Relationships and Schizoaffective Disorder before, however, I only touched upon this subject briefly, and I never provided my personal perspective or experience on the matter. Therefore, that is what I am here to do today.

As I became ill at the young age of 13 years old, almost all of my relationships have had difficulties. I am not going to talk about the relationships I had in school however, as we all know that the majority of them are pointless and it’s merely a part of growing up; though not all of us may have had relationships during the younger years of our lives, and that’s perfectly okay too. The relationships I am going to talk about are the only serious relationships I have had in my life, and unfortunately, my mental illness has affected them all in some way.

The first serious relationship ended as I simply could not handle being in a relationship with someone at that time. This was the healthiest relationship I had ever been in at this point in my life, the girl in question was a wonderful person, and it is a shame that the relationship did have to end, but it just was not right for me at the time. A year later, my next serious relationship occurred. This one was an extremely unhealthy and abusive relationship, on her part. She also has some form of mental illness, and I will never know if that is why she treated me the way she did, yet I let this continue for over a year and a half. I do believe that it was my mental state which was what caused me to put up with her behaviour and remain within the relationship, although other factors were also involved. I am going to talk about this relationship in depth at some point in the relatively near future, as I’m not entirely ready to talk about everything that occurred yet. Once this relationship had ended, I soon met the most wonderful woman I know. Our relationship progressed naturally and was not forced in any manner. We both suffer from mental illness, yet we help each other merely by understanding each other. We do rely on openness and honesty, as this allows us both to know how we are feeling and if we are behaving out of character, we know why that is. This is the best relationship I have ever had, and I hope it does not end too soon. However, it has not taken long for my mental illness to start to have an impact on the relationship, at least from my side, as I usually can keep my inappropriate thoughts and behaviours under cover. However, this is not always the case.

The first symptom that is typically noticed by whoever I may be in a relationship with, is my paranoia. Being paranoid to the extent that everything is questionable can make relationships extremely difficult, for both parties. I am paranoid most of the time, I do attempt to talk myself out of these ridiculous thoughts but my attempts have always seemed to fail.  Unless I were to vocalise my paranoia, it would typically go unnoticed; however, retaining all of those thoughts to oneself can be almost impossible.

As I have previously mentioned, I have quite a lot of problems with anger, although it is never directed at any individual or event. I have never been one to take my anger out on others, and I hope that I do never behave like that. However, it can be quite apparent when I am angry or irritable; even with my attempts to hide it. As far as I’m aware, my anger has never caused any significant problems within my relationships, although I’m sure it may have made others feel uncomfortable at some point.

One of the biggest problems that I face with relationships, is the social aspect. When I am in a manic episode, my social skills are wonderful. However, once the mania subsides, I return to the socially inept being that I am. I tend to dislike the majority of people within reason, I especially dislike meeting new people or being in large groups, and a lot of the time, I do not feel well enough to even go outside. I find it extremely hard to initiate and maintain conversations that are face-to-face. I am quite the introvert, therefore I greatly appreciate and need my privacy and alone time; which often leads to a large amount of isolation. However, I enjoy this isolation. I do not want to be social, and that’s what makes the issue that much more difficult. For obvious reasons, not being a social person and having a lack of social skills can and more often than not will have an impact of some form on the relationship.

A lot of the time, I feel as if I have too much going on in my own head, and that I spend too much time up in my own head to even have time to think about relationships. My hallucinations and delusions will either turn them or me into a monster, I go through phases of despising physical contact, which is usually important in every relationship; I am almost always filled with vast amounts of apathy, which can and will affect the way I interact with others. All of the symptoms I experience will have an impact on my relationships in some way, which is too many symptoms to talk about individually in this article.

I do what to point out that this article is addressing how my mental illness can affect my relationships, this does not mean that all of my relationships are constantly filled with difficulties and problems. The majority of my previous relationships have been wonderful experiences and I look back fondly of them. This article is mainly from a negative perspective as to me it is about a negative subject. However, it is important to remember that people with schizoaffective disorder are still people, a relationship with a mentally ill person is no less than one with a person who does not suffer from a mental illness.

A mental illness does not take away the opportunity for a beautiful and loving relationship.

Schizoaffective Disorder and Relationships

Relationships can be difficult enough without the addition of a mental illness thrown into the mix. A mental illness can create lots of barriers and obstacles in a relationship, and even in friendship. However, in this article I will be focusing on romantic relationships.

Firstly, when you have a mental illness, you often spend a lot of your time ‘in your own head’ rather than focusing on the real world. This can leave a person with barely any time to make and maintain relationships. With schizoaffective disorder, the symptoms of the illness can cause a lot of problems within a relationship.

How the Negative Symptoms of Schizoaffective Disorder affect Relationships

To begin with, I have withdrawn myself socially; meaning that I do not get the chance to make relationships, let alone maintain them. Social isolation makes building relationships to be almost impossible. Secondly, due to a loss of motivation in activities and everyday life, I am not interested or capable of doing what would be considered to be ‘normal’ activities within a relationship, such as going on dates or being out in public in general.

I have found cognitive impairment to be one of the most difficult obstacles in a relationship. A lack of concentration can make it extremely hard to take part in conversation, and as communication is a key part of being in a relationship, it is a huge obstacle to cross. Memory deficits also become an issue, as we can often forget meaningful conversations or events that have occurred with our significant other.

Inappropriate emotional responses can leave our significant other to believe we are purposely being rude, ignorant or just plain mean, even though this is not what we intended. Another issue is that our significant other may think that we are not happy with them due to what it is known as the ‘flat affect’ which is when a person has a blank facial expression and appears emotionless.

An obvious issue is the sexual problems related to the illness and the medications used to treat the illness. This may affect our libido, or even prove it to be tremendously hard to achieve an orgasm. As sex is seen as an important part of a relationship to the majority of people, this can make it difficult for people to stay in a relationship with us.

How the Positive Symptoms of Schizoaffective Disorder affect Relationships

The positive symptoms of schizoaffective disorder can have a great impact on relationships.

Paranoia and delusions can leave us believing that our partner is cheating on us; and constantly feeling paranoid is not healthy for any relationship. Hallucinations can leave us very distracted, and leave our partner feeling that we do not give them enough attention. As there is such a large variety of types of delusions, they can lead to a large variety of problems.

Thought disorder can also lead to many problems, as they can cause problems in both speech and writing, which can make it very hard to understand what we are trying to convey through conversation.

 

In conclusion, being in a relationship with someone who suffers from any mental illness can be difficult. However, everyone deserves love and although relationships with people suffering from a mental illness can be difficult, they can also be very rewarding; and often with time, our partners can learn to understand our illness and help us along the road to recovery.