Schizoaffective Disorder Prognosis

What is the prognosis?

It is generally agreed that the prognosis for people living with schizoaffective disorder lies somewhere between that of people with schizophrenia and people with bipolar disorder. In other words, the prognosis appears to be better for patients with schizoaffective disorder than those with schizophrenia but worse than those with bipolar disorder.

Because the condition is complicated and difficult to diagnose, it is also difficult for people living with this mental illness to get effective and timely treatment which will inevitably affect recovery outcomes. The justification for early and effective treatment is clear. As with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, people living with schizoaffective disorder have higher mortality rates from suicide than the general population.

Schizoaffective disorder can also affect perception and behaviour over long periods due to the combination of symptoms described above. The fact that people living with schizoaffective disorder can have symptoms from across a wide spectrum of illnesses (such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder) also makes treatment and finding the right medication a fraught process. A biopsychosocial approach that uses medication, but also acknowledges and treats the psychological and social aspects, is the most effective method in the treatment of schizoaffective disorder.

Medications used to treat schizoaffective disorder include anti-psychotic medications, and anti-depressants and/or mood stabilisers. Antipsychotic medications are effective for most people in reducing psychotic symptoms. Typically an antipsychotic medication is started first, but it may be combined with antidepressants, mood stabilisers or electroconvulsive therapy.

As the acute symptoms begin to subside, the psychosocial aspect of treatment should be encouraged. These treatments range from therapy for depression and mood instability, to programs that aim to build social skills, enhance cognitive function and family function so that people regain confidence, and make friends and social connections. Importantly they should also address essential problems such as accommodation and social services. In combination, a coordinated biopsychosocial approach will reduce the morbidity caused by the illness (such as social isolation, poverty from unemployment and loss of social skills).