In May of 2023, The White House released a statement for Mental Health Awareness Month. It begins, “It is clear that our country is facing an unprecedented mental health crisis impacting people of all ages. In 2021, two in five American adults reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression and [44%] of high school students reported struggling with persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, social media, and gun violence.” But, anxiety and depression are not the only mental health issues that need attention; schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder must also be brought to light.
Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective Disorder: Understanding the Differences
Many people categorize schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder as the same illness. This is false. While they do have some overlapping symptoms, they are characteristically different.
The primary difference is that schizophrenia is solely defined by psychosis, delusions, and hallucinations. While schizoaffective disorder may include these symptoms, this condition also involves symptoms of mania and/or depression.
What Exactly Is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a rather complex mental illness. According to the journal, Pharmacy and Therapeutics, “Schizophrenia is a complex, chronic mental health disorder characterized by an array of symptoms, including delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech or behavior, and impaired cognitive ability. The early onset of the disease, along with its chronic course, make it a disabling disorder for many patients and their families.” Additionally, the journal also explains, “Disability often results from both negative symptoms (characterized by loss or deficits) and cognitive symptoms, such as impairments in attention, working memory, or executive function.”
Moreover, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “Across studies that use household-based survey samples, clinical diagnostic interviews, and medical records, estimates of the prevalence of schizophrenia and related psychotic disorders in the U.S. range between 0.25% and 0.64%.” Now, while these statistics may seem small, they actually represent between 800,000 and two million people. Thus, these numbers are not insignificant. In addition, these numbers also include those struggling with schizoaffective disorder.
What Exactly Is Schizoaffective Disorder?
Simply put, schizoaffective disorder is a subtype of schizophrenia. According to the peer-reviewed article, The Schizoaffective Disorder Diagnosis: A Conundrum in the Clinical Setting, there are four criteria for schizoaffective disorder:
#1. “Criterion A requires that the patient experience psychotic symptoms consistent with criterion A for schizophrenia and that they co-occur with a major mood episode (major depression, mania or a mixed state.)”
#2. “Criterion B requires that the patient also experiences psychotic symptoms in the absence of major mood symptoms, for a period of at least 2 weeks.”
#3. “Criterion C states that manic or major depressive symptoms must be present for a “substantial portion of the total duration” of the illness.”
#4. “Finally, Criterion D excludes cases with psychotic and mood symptoms that can be attributed to substance use or another medical condition.”
Now, because schizoaffective disorder is a subtype of schizophrenia, they often have a crossover in how they are treated.
What Are Some Effective Treatment Options for Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective Disorder?
Generally, there are two primary types of treatments for schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. These are therapeutic and pharmacological.
The therapies that are most often used for these two disorders are psychotherapy, both individual therapy as well as group or family therapy. These therapies are utilized to get to the underlying emotional issues that are often associated with the symptoms of schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. Also, specific approaches like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) can help to recognize when these emotions are surfacing so the related behaviors can be managed or even avoided.
As far as pharmacology goes, the medications that are most used to treat these two disorders include antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, and antidepressants. Now, while these medications can help mitigate the symptoms of schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder, they cannot fully treat them. To do this, they must be used in tandem with therapy. Essentially, medication works to reduce symptoms enough for the therapy to be most effective.
The Goal of Long-Term Addiction and Mental Health Recovery at the Phoenix Recovery Center
Renowned American psychologist, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, once said, “The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of those depths.” We are here to help people struggling with issues of mental health and/or addiction find their way out of those depths.
Here at The Phoenix Recovery Center, we don’t believe in short-term mental health and/or addiction “fixes.” We know that if a long-term recovery plan isn’t set in place while in treatment, the chance for a healthy recovery is minimal.
Now, we also know that being diagnosed with either schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder can be both alarming, disorienting, and overwhelming. However, with our help, it doesn’t have to be. We can help create an individualized and comprehensive recovery plan so that our clients can control their mental illness, and not the other way around.
If you feel like you or a loved one may be struggling with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder, you are not alone. We can help. For more information on the differences between schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder, please reach out to The Phoenix Recovery Center today at (801) 438-3185.