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Schizoaffective Disorder vs. Schizophrenia

Schizoaffective disorder and schizophrenia are complex mental health concerns that can impair a person’s ability to perceive their environment and communicate with others. But these disorders are not identical. Understanding the key similarities and differences between schizoaffective disorder vs. schizophrenia can help you get the right type of treatment for a loved one.

Similarities Between Schizoaffective Disorder vs. Schizophrenia

As their names suggest, schizoaffective disorder and schizophrenia are similar. In this section, we are going to review some of the more prominent characteristics that are shared by both disorders.

To be accurately diagnosed with either schizoaffective disorder or schizophrenia, a person must have at least two of the following five symptoms:

  1. Delusions: These are rigid beliefs that can be easily disproven or clearly have no basis in reality. Someone who has delusions might become convinced that they are being spied on by the government, that they have some incredible talent or magical powers, or that they are receiving coded messages through the television or radio.
  2. Hallucinations: The two most common forms of hallucinations are auditory (hearing voices or other sounds that don’t exist) and visual (seeing objects, light patterns, or people who aren’t really there). Though less common, hallucinations can also involve the senses of touch (tactile), smell (olfactory), and taste (gustatory).
  3. Disorganized speech: This symptom manifests as an inability to effectively communicate one’s thoughts or engage in conversation with other people. Examples of disorganized speech include responding to questions with completely unrelated statements, speaking in a manner that emphasizes the sounds of words rather than their meanings, and using made-up words or sounds that have no meaning to anyone else. 
  4. Grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior: Examples of this type of symptom can include dressing in a bizarre fashion, holding one’s body in awkward positions, acting in an inappropriately childlike manner, or lashing out with unprovoked and unpredictable aggression. 
  5. Negative symptoms: The previous four symptoms in this list are commonly referred to as positive symptoms. Negative symptoms are notable for what a person doesn’t do. For example, these symptoms can include a lack of facial expressiveness, speaking without inflection, and having no apparent interest in interacting with others or engaging in any goal-directed activities.

According to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), people who have either schizoaffective disorder or schizophrenia will have at least one of the first three symptoms listed above, along with at least one other symptom (which may or may not be within the first three).

Differences Between Schizoaffective Disorder vs. Schizophrenia

Now that we have discussed how these disorders are alike, let’s take a look at the primary difference between schizoaffective disorder vs. schizophrenia: the presence of major depressive and/or manic episodes.

The diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia are limited to the five symptom types described in the previous section. For schizoaffective disorder, the criteria include the schizophrenia symptoms, plus at least one of the following:

  • Major depressive episodes: Periods of major depression involve overwhelming sadness, low energy level, diminished motivation, lack of interest in significant activities, disrupted sleep patterns (insomnia or hypersomnia), recurrent thoughts of death and dying, and similar feelings.
  • Manic episodes: These types of episodes are marked by elevated energy level, increased talkativeness, little to no apparent need for sleep, heightened confidence and self-esteem, multiple goal-directed activities, and related emotions and behaviors.

Major depressive episodes and manic episodes are also symptomatic of bipolar disorder. So, in a sense, schizoaffective disorder represents a combination of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. 

Because of this presence of symptoms from multiple mental health concerns, another difference between schizoaffective disorder and schizophrenia is that the former may be more difficult to diagnose than the latter.

Treatment for Schizoaffective Disorder and Schizophrenia

Treatment is an area that includes both similarities and differences between schizoaffective disorder and schizophrenia. One similarity is that both disorders may be treated at one or more of the following levels:

Another similarity is that, at all levels, treatment for people who have either schizoaffective disorder or schizophrenia are typically includes a combination of medication and therapy. 

The medication component is the main difference between treatment for schizoaffective disorder vs. schizophrenia. People who have schizophrenia typically receive antipsychotics, while people who have schizoaffective disorder may receive antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, or antidepressants.

The therapeutic element of treatment for these disorders is designed to help people manage symptoms that are not alleviated by medication. Individual, group, and family therapy can all be beneficial. Sessions may focus on topics such as avoiding or resolving conflicts, communicating more effectively, establishing healthy relationships, maintaining appropriate boundaries, and developing social skills.

Begin Treatment in Atlanta, GA

If someone in your life has been exhibiting the symptoms of schizoaffective disorder or schizophrenia, Peachtree Wellness Solutions can help. Our schizoaffective disorder treatment center in Atlanta, Georgia, is a safe and supportive place where adults receive personalized care from a team of skilled professionals. Begin a thorough assessment to determine the full scope of your unique needs. We provide the customized services that can help you achieve improved health and better overall quality of life. For additional information or to contact us, please visit our admissions page or call us today.