The following description of schizoaffective disorder is taken from the educational handouts section of Behavioral Family Therapy for Psychiatric Disorders by Kim T. Mueser and Shirley M. Glynn, published by New Harbinger Publications, Inc. (www.newharbinger.com). Second edition, 1999:
Schizoaffective disorder is a major psychiatric disorder that is similar to schizophrenia. The disorder can affect all aspects of daily living, including work, social relationships, and self-care skills (such as grooming and hygiene). People with schizoaffective disorder can have a wide variety of symptoms, including problems with their contact with reality (hallucinations and delusions), mood (such as marked depression), low motivation, inability to experience pleasure, and poor attention. The serious nature of the symptoms of this disorder sometimes require clients to be hospitalized at times for treatment. The experience of schizoaffective disorder can be described as similar to "dreaming when you are wide awake"; that is, it can be hard for the person with the disorder to distinguish between reality and fantasy."
You may read about symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions and thought disorder, as well as the symptoms which affect enjoyment and attention in the section Schizophrenia. Symptoms of mania may be found under Bipolar Disorder and depressive symptoms under the section Depression.
You will realize from the description of this condition that a diagnosis may be difficult for a physician to make in the early stages. However, when a person experiences mania, depression and psychotic symptoms over a period of time, Schizoaffective disorder is the preferred diagnosis.
With all serious mental illness there is an ever present risk of suicide. Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder have a similar incidence of 1 in 10 people who have these disorders committing suicide. About 4 in 10 attempt suicide.
We direct you to our booklet 2 in the publications section of the site, where some of the risk factors are described.