I started seeing a new psychiatrist about 6 months ago, and thanks to him, I’ve been learning more about the differences between schizoaffective disorder (my diagnosis) and the alternative schizophrenia.
Quite simply, the difference is that schizoaffective disorder does include a mood disorder while schizophrenia alone is just a thought disorder. I had been aware of this, but with the different misconceptions and stigma surrounding schizoaffective versus schizophrenia, I had thought there was more to it.
Schizoaffective disorder has two major types: bipolar and depressive. Obviously the depressive type (classified as schizoaffective disorder depressive type) includes the depression mood disorder with no manic episodes. Schizoaffective disorder bipolar type, what I have, includes manic episodes as well as depressive episodes in a cycling mood sort of pattern.
Most people know the basic differences between depression and bipolar, however bipolar is significantly less understood. Bipolar mood swings can last only hours, but they often will last for days or even weeks or months. There are different types of bipolar diagnoses, depending on how much depression or mania (or possibly hypomania) is experienced.
Bipolar I is characterized by periods of mania, where one may feel a sense of euphoria, high energy, or sometimes extreme irritability. This can lead to uncharacteristic and possibly dangerous, self-destructive behaviors, like gambling, careless sexual promiscuity, drug use, overspending money, and others, in the excess. These “highs” can also be joined by psychosis or disjoining from reality at times. These manic episodes can be separated by depressive episodes, and sometimes there are periods where mood is stable. Bipolar II tends to have less high mania, or hypomania, with more of an emphasis on the depressive episodes. Both of these can be part of the schizoaffective disorder bipolar type diagnosis.
There’s a huge misconception that schizophrenia is, by default, more severe and debilitating than schizoaffective disorder. A lot of people seem to think that schizoaffective disorder psychosis is less severe, even some doctors and other mental health professionals. However, this is simply not true. My psychotic symptoms are pretty well managed at the moment, but only with the medication I’m on. Without those medications, a relapse of the psychotic symptoms would destroy me even more. I can’t function as it is, even though I have schizoaffective disorder. The only reason it’s not considered schizophrenia is because I also have a mood disorder, but the distinguishing factor has nothing to do with severity.