Schizoaffective disorder is a chronic mental health condition in which someone experiences symptoms of both schizophrenia and a mood disorder. These symptoms may include hallucinations, delusions, lack of pleasure, decreased mood and poor attention.

There are several interesting facts about schizoaffective disorder. Statistics reveal information about the prevalence of schizoaffective disorder, how the condition affects different groups as well as rates of treatment success.

Prevalence of Schizoaffective Disorder

About 1 in 300 (0.3%) people develop schizoaffective disorder at some point in their lives. While this mental health disorder is fortunately somewhat uncommon, it can be quite severe for those who have it, affecting most areas of their life.

Those examining the prevalence of schizoaffective disorder often wonder about how it affects women vs. men. Some research shows that men and women tend to develop schizoaffective disorder at about the same rates, with no discernible difference in the frequency between genders. There are, however, other research reports that indicate women are more likely to develop schizoaffective disorder. This research found that about two-thirds of those with schizoaffective disorder were female. Both sets of research do indicate, however, that men are more likely to develop schizoaffective disorder at a younger age than women are.

Age of Onset

Many people who examine schizoaffective disorder statistics wonder, “At what age does schizoaffective disorder start?” The typical schizoaffective disorder diagnosis age tends to be between 16 and 30.

Unfortunately, many people with schizoaffective disorder may be misdiagnosed with either schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. This is thought to be due to the fact that schizoaffective disorder includes symptoms of both conditions, and modern psychologists could have a bias toward diagnosing the less serious condition. While the typical age of onset may be 16–30 years old, people may be misdiagnosed at first or may develop schizoaffective disorder later in life.

Schizoaffective Disorder Risk Factors

There are several schizoaffective disorder risk factors that may raise the risk of schizoaffective disorder developing. Schizoaffective disorder is more common in those who have parents or extended family who have had schizoaffective disorder, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Those who have an identical twin with schizoaffective disorder are much more likely to develop schizoaffective disorder themselves.

Biological factors can also lead to an increased risk of developing schizoaffective disorder. This primarily includes imbalances in brain chemistry. Scientists are not certain of what causes imbalances in brain chemistry, but when certain chemicals in the brain become more abundant, it can lead to a higher risk of schizoaffective disorder developing. Many of the medications used to treat schizoaffective disorder are focused on restoring balance to brain chemistry.

Additionally, environmental factors can also play a role in the development of schizoaffective disorder. High levels of stress, negative social interactions or even viral infections can trigger the onset of schizoaffective disorder in those who are already prone to it or who have other risk factors. While environmental factors can trigger the onset of schizoaffective disorder, they are less likely to do so for those without any other risk factors.

Schizoaffective Disorder Prognosis

The prognosis of schizoaffective disorder essentially includes how well it is expected to respond to therapy and medications, and how much of the baseline normal function that the person with schizoaffective disorder is expected to regain. Schizoaffective disorder prognosis is thought to be better than the prognosis of mood disorders such as bipolar disorder, but not as good as the expected prognosis for schizophrenia. However, with treatment and therapy, many people with schizoaffective disorder can regain a normal level of daily functioning.

Schizoaffective disorder long-term outlook depends on a variety of factors and is worsened by:

  • Mental health problems prior to developing schizoaffective disorder
  • A slow onset of symptoms
  • An absence of triggering factors
  • Significant amounts of psychosis
  • Symptoms that include lack of interest, emotion or decreased speech
  • Onset earlier in life
  • Persistent, unrelieved symptoms
  • Having a family member with schizophrenia

While these factors may cause a poorer long-term prognosis, treatment can still help to improve the long-term effects of schizoaffective disorder.

Schizoaffective Disorder Suicide Risk

There are no good studies that give an exact statistic for the rate of suicides by those with schizoaffective disorder. According to a study that examined suicide rates in individuals with schizoaffective disorder and schizophrenia, 34% reported a history of suicide attempts. Suicide risk is more likely to be tied to the expected prognosis, and those who are thought to have a poorer long-term prognosis may be at a higher risk of committing suicide.

Schizoaffective Disorder and Co-Occurring Conditions

Schizoaffective disorder is unique in that it is a combination of schizophrenia and mood disorders. While people often confuse schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder due to the similarities in their names, schizophrenia is actually part of schizoaffective disorder. Bipolar and schizoaffective disorder are similarly related, with bipolar disorder often being a part of schizoaffective disorder. Schizoaffective disorder and depression or mania often go together, as one or both types of mood disorders are often present in schizoaffective disorder.

One common truly co-occurring condition with schizoaffective disorder is substance abuse. Those who have schizoaffective disorder may misuse substances to alleviate some of the symptoms they are experiencing. This combination of schizoaffective disorder and drug abuse is called a dual diagnosis and requires that both the mental health condition and substance addiction be treated together. Dual diagnosis often complicates treatment and may lead to poorer prognosis than schizoaffective disorder would have on its own.

Complications of Schizoaffective Disorder

There are several complications of schizoaffective disorder that are or may be commonly experienced. These complications may be more common when schizoaffective disorder does not respond well to treatment, when those with schizoaffective disorder who do not follow the prescribed treatment plan or in those who do not have a good social support system.

Common complications or consequences of schizoaffective disorder include:

  • Social isolation
  • Unemployment
  • Anxiety
  • Substance abuse
  • Family discord
  • Health problems
  • Suicide
  • Poverty
  • Homelessness

While these complications may be avoided with treatment, these complications are common, and it is likely that at least one of these complications may be experienced by someone with schizoaffective disorder.

Statistics on Schizoaffective Disorder Treatment and Recovery

Schizoaffective disorder treatment involves a mix of therapy and medications. Therapy may involve cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a technique which focuses on understanding the internal motivations behind behavior and on understanding one’s own thought process. Treatment may also consist of other types of therapy that are individualized to each patient. Medications are focused on stabilizing mood and treating symptoms of psychosis. These medications may include:

For some patients who do not respond well to treatment, long-term inpatient psychiatric treatment may be necessary. This more long-term treatment may be a good option for those who are not able to care for themselves and do not gain significant benefits from other treatments.

Schizoaffective disorder recovery rates depend on the prognosis and the treatments used. One significant study that examined responses treatment by those with schizoaffective disorder found a remission or reduction in symptoms of 54.5% of those who underwent treatment. This same study found that 25.8% of patients were found to be able to function at the level that they were functioning prior to developing schizoaffective disorder. Rates of complete recovery were 22.7%. Ultimately, this study is promising and does show that recovery from schizoaffective disorder is both possible and realistic.

If you or a loved one live with co-occurring schizoaffective disorder and addiction, help is available. Reach out to The Recovery Village today to get started.

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