Tuesday, 21 January 2014

12 Days of Mental Health : Day 11 - Schizoaffective Disorder

I know how long it's been, and I know how much time as passed since the 'official' twelve days, but I've not been too well so please forgive me! I'm really grateful for the support and the amount of views on guest blogs has been incredible. Those who have shared their stories deserve this recognition. I'd give you all an award if I could.

Anyway, I'm nearly there with finishing 12 Days of Mental Health. Today, I thought I'd talk a bit about Schizoaffective Disorder. Whilst I've not been able to get a specific guest blogger, I've been very lucky to have permission from the lovely Jonny Benjamin to use his incredible YouTube videos.

Please note this post may be triggering for some, and it is vital to look after yourself first.

What is Schizoaffective Disorder?

If we break down the word 'schizoaffective,' the first part ('schizo') relates to psychotic symptoms, whereas the second part ('affective') relates to mood symptoms. It can be described as a combination of schizophrenia and depression, and some consider the symptoms to be similar to that of bipolar disorder. 

Schizoaffective Disorder tends to be more common in women than in men. According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, less than 1 in 100 people are likely to have schizoaffective disorder in their lifetime. Bipolar-type schizoaffective disorder tends to be more common in younger people, where as the depressive-type tends to be more common in older people.

There are various theories behind the causes of schizoaffective disorder, including genetics, chemical imbalances, or traumatic life experiences. Individuals with this diagnosis may experience psychosis, such as in the form of hallucinations or delusions, alongside a mood disorder, such as depression (depressive type), or mania (bipolar type).

Psychotic symptoms and disturbances to the mood may occur at the same time, or they could alternate. Many people find they experience an 'episode' for a certain period of time and then feel relatively 'stable' in between. 

Research suggests that individuals with schizoaffective disorder tend to have better cognitive functioning than individuals with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, and whilst long-term treatment is usually necessary, individuals with this diagnosis have a positive prognosis. 

What are the symptoms of schizoaffective disorder?

Symptoms can vary for each person, especially due to the different types of schizoaffective disorder. However, here is a list of some more general symptoms.
  • Hallucinations - seeing, feeling, tasting or hearing things that aren't there
  • Delusions - strong beliefs and thoughts that other people don't share, such as feeling paranoid someone is controlling you for example, or having a sense of grandiose 
  • Symptoms of depression - such as feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness, changes in sleeping habits, anger, thoughts of self-harm and/or suicide 
  • Symptoms of mania - such as racing thoughts, dangerous behaviour, talking faster than usual, and inflated self-esteem
  • Lack of emotion in facial expressions and when talking 
  • Lack of motivation
  • Slow movements 
If you have experience any of the above symptoms and are concerned, always visit your GP in the first circumstance. 

A diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder is established when someone has experience psychotic symptoms for two weeks or more, in the absence of depressive or mania symptoms. 

What treatments are available?

Depending on the symptoms being experience, there are a variety of treatments available. The most common form of treatment tends to be medication, particularly in the form of anti-psychotics (the same of which tend to be used for schizophrenia). This may also be combined with anti-depressants or mood-stabilisers, depending on whether you have a depressive or bipolar type diagnosis.

Talking therapies are also crucial, particularly in the form of psychotherapy, CBT counselling. Some find that family therapy is beneficial, especially for those who live with someone with schizoaffective disorder. This provides a great foundation for everyone to understand your illness better and know how best to support you.

Don't forget there are also some great self-help resources available both online and in books, especially for mood disorders. 

Jonny's Story

Jonny has a whole host of INCREDIBLE videos, and has quite the following on YouTube (and Twitter!) now. I was so lucky to have featured with Jonny in 'Failed by the NHS' last year, and thanks to him, he's allowed me to share his videos on my blog. It was tough choosing just one, but I thought I'd pick one specifically about his journey with schizaffective disorder. 


You  can view all of Jonny's videos on his YouTube channel - click here.
Follow Jonny on Twitter too, just click here.

Further Information