Schizoaffective Disorder and Addiction


Schizoaffective Disorder and AddictionSchizoaffective disorder is an unusual and commonly misdiagnosed condition. Because of the mixture of symptoms, doctors and mental health professional often catch just the schizophrenia or just the mood disorder. It can take some time to really sort out all the symptoms and make a proper diagnosis.

Typical schizophrenia symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized speech, thoughts, and behavior. Mood symptoms can include depressed mood, social isolation, negative thoughts, thoughts of harming oneself, sleep problems, despair, and some mania (for manic subtype). Although there have not been any official prevalence studies done, experts estimate that about one in every 200-500 people could develop schizoaffective disorder sometimes in their lives.

How Might Schizoaffective Disorder and Addiction Look to Friends and Family?

Schizoaffective disorder causes a lot of emotional pain along with confusing thoughts, isolation, and mood problems. It’s common for people with schizoaffective disorder to develop an alcohol or drug addiction while trying to self-medicate their pain or increase feelings of pleasure. Substance use can magnify their isolation, mood symptoms, and thought problems.

If some you knew had both problems, you would likely notice the strange schizophrenia symptoms (delusions, disorganized behavior, etc) as well as limited social interactions. They may seem to really lose touch with reality for periods of time. Drugs and alcohol often impair judgment and increase impulsively. They may seem frequently suicidal from both the dual diagnosis problems and the affects of their addiction.

How is Schizoaffective Disorder Treated?

Schizoaffective treatment has many components to it. Cognitive therapy is used to help reconnect thought processes and cope with emotions. If they are actively suicidal, they may need to be admitted to a hospital or inpatient psychiatric unit. Group and individual therapy supports them as they learn (or relearn) and maintain good social skills. Anti-depressants, mood stabilizers, and anti-psychotic medication are used in combination depending on the person’s symptoms.

Family involvement is an important part of treatment. Some people with schizoaffective disorder live with family members because they cannot care for themselves. Families greatly benefit from psychoeducation about the disorder and family therapy. Medication is a critical part of treatment and must be closely monitored.

How Does Schizoaffective Disorder Interact With Drugs and Alcohol?

Alcohol and marijuana worsen schizoaffective symptoms. Alcohol and drug addiction can interact in harmful, even deadly ways with anti-psychotic and anti-depressant medications. People with schizoaffective disorder can create a more devastating affect on themselves with smaller and less frequent amounts of alcohol or drugs than people without a mental disorder. Just think for a minute about all these dangerous factors put together. Getting proper dual diagnosis treatment is critical for someone in this situation.

There is bad news and good news about schizoaffective disorder and dual diagnosis. The bad news – people with schizoaffective disorder and an addiction are more likely to have relapses and are more likely to require hospitalization than those who abstain from drugs and alcohol. But wait, here’s the good news. The long-term prognosis looks good when these people follow long-term drug treatment programs along with other support systems for several years.

What Treatment and Support is Available for Schizoaffective Dual Diagnosis?

The experts at the Canyon are specifically trained to treat both mental disorders and addictions. The team works together to provide coordinated treatment for a challenging dual diagnosis like schizoaffective disorder and addiction. Ongoing support can be found on schizoaffective message boards and schizoaffective forums.

Your Thoughts

What’s been your experience with schizoaffective disorder and an addiction? Were you misdiagnosed at first, or did you get connected with the right kind of help right away. The more we learn about your experiences, the more we are able to provide high quality custom treatment for people with schizoaffective disorder. We truly appreciate your comments and stories.

Wendy Lee Nentwig

By Wendy Lee Nentwig
Guest Contributor

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