What is Schizoaffective?
Schizoaffective disorder is a type of mental illness which is essentially a combination of schizophrenia and a mood disorder. There are actually two types of the disorder. The first type is Bipolar, which has episodes of mania and depression; and then there is the depressive type, which only includes episodes of major depression.
I have the Bipolar type. So for me, living with Schizoaffective disorder is kind of like it sounds; having symptoms of Schizophrenia and Bipolar at the same time.
I feel like it’s easier to say that I have Bipolar disorder with psychosis, which is actually how I still have my information on my site. I suppose it’s misleading and that I should start to bring more awareness to this disorder. My understanding is: the main the difference between having Bipolar disorder with psychotic features versus having Schizoaffective disorder is that in Schizoaffective you have psychosis outside of mood episodes.
Of course, this can vary a bit from person to person. Some people have more severe schizophrenic symptoms, for example.
When did you get diagnosed?
My psychiatrist officially diagnosed me on September 11th, 2015. I blogged about it briefly on my mental health awareness web site. Prior to that, my therapist and I had discussed the possibility briefly because she had suspected that I may have it – but she was unable to actually make the diagnosis herself.
We haven’t made it a big concern for me to “relabel” myself, as I had previously been diagnosed with Bipolar disorder with psychotic features for many years, and the medications I had been on were already ideal to treat Schizoaffective for the most part.
I’ve struggled and have been coping with my mental illness for a long time, so it wasn’t a huge shocker for me. But I imagine that it might be for someone who is newly diagnosed!
What do you want people to know about the disorder?
First of all, you don’t need to have all the symptoms of Schizophrenia to be diagnosed with Schizoaffective disorder. In fact, there are a few symptoms that may not be as severe.
Here is a quote straight from the DSM-5: “Restricted social contact and difficulties with self-care are associated with schizoaffective disorder, but negative symptoms may be less severe and less persistent than those seen in schizophrenia. Anosognosia (i.e., poor insight) is also common in schizoaffective disorder, but the deficits in insight may be less severe and pervasive than those in schizophrenia.” (Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5 2013)
I highly suggest reading about Bipolar disorder if you don’t have a good idea about what a mood disorder is already, but here’s a brief description.
One can experience drastic changes in:
Energy and activity, which can affect motivation.
Even the thought process is affected; one can have racing thoughts, or difficulty concentrating for example.
These things tend to shift to a more “negative” (down) or “positive” (up) side depending on the mood state of Bipolar. If one is depressed, you’ll tend to be down – sad, have less energy, be less motivated, sleep more, and maybe even become suicidal. On the other hand, if manic, normally one becomes more “up” and has more energy, motivation, may have trouble sleeping, have racing thoughts, become irritable, do risky and impulsive things, etc.
This isn’t a comprehensive description, but it should give you some idea of what’s going on.
As far as my psychosis goes, I have symptoms such as hallucinations, paranoia, and delusions.
The hallucinations I get are both visual and auditory. It all comes and goes seemingly randomly, but tends to worsen if I am stressed. Having talked to other people with similar mental health issues, it seems that reducing stress whenever possible is helpful to them also.
It can’t be cured at this time, but it can be treated. People who have it can have a decent life. I’m not going to lie and say I love my life. This illness has caused a lot of complications for everyone involved in it at various times. However, I believe it’s forced me to become a stronger person; and I’m able to be very empathetic because of it also.
What are some of the misconceptions about the illness?
One of the first things that comes to mind is that people confuse it with Schizophrenia, Schizotypal personality disorder or Schizoid personality disorder. And there may very well be others.
People are often lacking information about mental illness in general; with Schizoaffective disorder being one of the rarer ones, that is to be expected to some extent.
There is some usage of the term “schizo” as an insult to imply someone is “crazy” – which is not true at all. The only “schizo” part about Schizoaffective is that there are symptoms of Schizophrenia. It is not the same thing, and the others I mentioned aren’t related at all in this diagnosis.
I believe we’re more likely to hurt ourselves than others. And the study that has been done mainly shows that increased violence in mental health patients was related to substance abuse; and that substance abuse in general is much more of a problem.
“Most patients with stable mental illness do not present an increased risk of violence.”
That could go into a whole conversion about my deep desire to do something about the stigma of mental illness. And I’m aware that you have that desire also; I believe it’s the reason you created Stigma Fighters.
Aside from that — I’m a good person, just like a lot of people with mental illness are; and many of us can function well especially while being treated at an acceptable level. If you’re not being treated right, then look elsewhere!