Are you or a loved one struggling with addiction and a co-occurring schizoaffective disorder? Learn four common schizoaffective disorder myths and how this condition can be treated.

Schizoaffective disorder includes features of both mood disorders and schizophrenia. Namely, an individual may experience delusions or hallucinations in combination with manic and depressive episodes, like those seen with bipolar disorder.

Because it is closely related to various other conditions, understanding how schizoaffective disorder is different is crucial for people struggling with the disorder. It can be challenging to tell the difference between schizoaffective disorder and schizophrenia, particularly if the person exhibits features of a manic episode at the same time. That’s why it is important to learn about common schizoaffective disorder myths.

Myth #1: Schizoaffective disorder is the same as schizophrenia.

Fact: Schizoaffective disorder and schizophrenia are related, but separate conditions.

Despite having overlapping symptoms, there are a few key differences between schizoaffective disorder and schizophrenia. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) is a diagnostic tool used by medical professionals to diagnose individuals with mental health conditions. According to the DSM-5, schizoaffective disorder is an entirely separate condition from schizophrenia.

First, schizoaffective disorder incorporates schizophrenia symptoms with additional mood disorder symptoms. Both symptoms of schizophrenia and mood disorder must be present for a person to be diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. In addition, hallucinations and delusions must be present for a minimum of two weeks without a manic or depressive episode, and symptoms cannot be caused by medication or drug use. People diagnosed with schizophrenia don’t exhibit any symptoms of an underlying mood disorder.

Myth #2: There’s only one type of schizoaffective disorder.

Fact: There are two different types of schizoaffective disorder.

Schizoaffective disorder is subdivided into two different categories: bipolar and depressive. The bipolar type of schizoaffective disorder is characterized by states of elevated energy and euphoria or manic episodes as well as depressive episodes. The depressive type of schizoaffective disorder only includes depressive episodes.

A person may be diagnosed with the bipolar subtype if they exhibit symptoms that include increased energy and activity, irritability or aggression, inability to stop moving and reckless decision-making. A person may be diagnosed with the depressive type if they do not exhibit mania symptoms and only exhibit depressive symptoms like hopelessness, low energy, and decreased activity levels. Nevertheless, either type of schizoaffective disorder makes it difficult for individuals to function in everyday life.

Myth #3: Schizoaffective disorder is always caused by trauma.

Fact: Schizoaffective disorder can be caused by a variety of factors.

Although closely related to one another, schizoaffective disorder and schizophrenia likely have different causes. The exact causes of either condition are currently unknown. Nevertheless, schizoaffective disorder can be attributed to a variety of factors including genetics, brain chemistry, and high-stress levels. Genetic studies indicate that genes involved in maintaining the brain’s proper sleep-wake cycles and those involved in neurotransmitter signaling may be altered in people with schizoaffective disorder.

Currently, it is unknown how schizoaffective disorder is inherited. Individuals that are siblings or children of those with the disorder are at a higher risk for developing schizoaffective disorder. Additionally, people with the schizoaffective disorder tend to have relatives with schizophreniadepression or bipolar disorder.

Myth #4: Schizoaffective disorder isn’t treatable.

Fact: Schizoaffective disorder has many evidence-based treatments.

There are many schizoaffective disorder treatments currently available. A typical schizoaffective disorder treatment plan is dependent on the diagnosis type. For instance, people with depressive type schizoaffective disorder may benefit from a combination of antipsychotic medication and an antidepressant. In people with bipolar type schizoaffective disorder, mood stabilizers and antipsychotics tend to be more beneficial. Besides medication, cognitive behavioral therapy has shown some efficacy for people with schizoaffective disorder.

If you or a loved one are struggling with schizoaffective disorder and co-occurring addiction, please contact The Recovery Village for more information about treatment options.

a woman is standing with her arms crossed.
Editor – Megan Hull
Megan Hull is a content specialist who edits, writes and ideates content to help people find recovery. Read more
a woman with a smile on her face.
Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Bonnie Bullock, PHD
Bonnie is a medical communications specialist at Boston Strategic Partners, a global health industry consulting firm. Her recent work in mental health includes developing conference materials for clinical studies in mood disorders and copy-editing clinical manuscripts. Read more

American Psychiatric Association. “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5).” October 1, 2018. Accessed May 25, 2019.

Genetics Home Reference. “Schizoaffective Disorder.” May 14, 2019. Accessed May 25, 2019.

National Alliance of Mental Illness. “Schizoaffective Disorder.”  Accessed May 25, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.