If you are living with someone with schizoaffective disorder, it’s completely understandable to struggle with how best to support them. You can’t cure their illness, but you can play a vital role in helping them achieve the best possible quality of life.
What Is Schizoaffective Disorder?
Schizoaffective disorder is a mental health condition that shares some symptoms with schizophrenia and some with bipolar disorder.
A person who has schizoaffective disorder will have either manic episodes (periods of dramatically elevated mood, confidence, and energy) or depressive episodes (times of pervasive sadness, low mood, and diminished energy).
In addition to these types of episodes, people who have schizoaffective disorder will also have psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, disorganized speech, grossly disorganized behaviors, and negative symptoms.
Symptoms of Schizoaffective Disorder
If you are living with someone with schizoaffective disorder, your loved one may experience the following types of symptoms:
- During manic episodes, they may act with inflated self-confidence, to the point of arrogance or grandiosity. This can be accompanied by impulsive behaviors, such as launching multiple projects, overeating, going on spending sprees, and abusing substances.
- During depressive episodes, they may have difficulty getting out of bed and getting through the day. Their appetite may change significantly, which can cause either weight gain or loss, and they may frequently express feelings of helplessness or despair.
- They may claim to see or hear things that no one else can see or hear.
- They may express beliefs that have no basis in reality, such as claiming that they have magical powers, are being sent coded messages through mass media, or are being spied on.
- They may have great difficulty expressing themselves. This can include rapidly jumping from one topic to the next with no logical pattern, or using words based on their sound or tone instead of their meanings.
- They may dress or act in a bizarre fashion. This can include engaging in behaviors that have no obvious purpose.
- They may fail to use facial expressions, speak in a flat voice, or even show no interest in interacting with others.
Supporting Someone With Schizoaffective Disorder
The best way to support a loved one who has schizoaffective disorder is to connect them with appropriate mental health services. This may include residential treatment, outpatient care, and/or community-based support groups. Medication and therapy can help your loved one make tremendous progress toward improved health.
Before, during, and after your loved one’s time in treatment, there are many additional ways that you can help. Here are a few suggestions:
- Become an informed advocate: Educate yourself about schizoaffective disorder. As you learn more about this disorder, its effects, and options for treatment, you will become better prepared to support your loved one and advocate on their behalf. If your loved one enters a treatment program that offers family therapy or family support services, take advantage of these opportunities to increase your knowledge and understanding.
- Include your loved one in your life: Support requires action. Telling someone you care about them is important, but showing them that you care can truly make a world of difference. Include your loved one in everyday activities as well as special events. Let them know by your actions that you value them, exactly as they are.
- Offer tangible assistance: Does your loved one need transportation to therapy sessions? Do they need help with childcare so they can attend treatment? Are you concerned that they may be forgetting (or neglecting) to take their medication every day? Identify ways that you can make your loved one’s life better, then take the necessary action to fill those needs.
- Watch for signs of relapse: Treatment isn’t a panacea. Even after a successful treatment experience, your loved one will still be at risk for relapse and other challenges. Keep an eye out for dramatic changes and other signs that could indicate the start of a relapse. For example, are they sleeping too much (or not enough)? Have they been eating more or less than usual? Have they started to withdraw or act with uncharacteristic aggression?
- Work to expand awareness and reduce stigma: The sad truth is that people who have complex mental illnesses such as schizoaffective disorder are often harassed, ostracized, and otherwise victimized. When you push back against these negative influences, you create a better community for your loved one and all others who are struggling.
- Get help for yourself: Caring for someone who has a serious mental illness can affect you in many ways – some of which may not be obvious to you. Talking to a counselor, therapist, or other qualified professional can help you process your experiences and address any small problems before they become major concerns. You can’t provide maximum support to your loved one if you are neglecting your own needs.
Find Treatment for Schizoaffective Disorder in Atlanta, Georgia
If you are living with someone with schizoaffective disorder who can benefit from comprehensive mental health treatment, Peachtree Wellness Solutions is here to help.
Our mental health treatment center in Atlanta, Georgia, offers a full continuum of customized care, including residential, partial hospitalization, and intensive outpatient options. At each of these levels, your loved one will receive personalized services from a team of experienced caregivers within a safe and highly supportive environment.
To learn more about our programs and services or to schedule a free assessment for your loved one, please visit our Admissions page or call us today.