Schizoaffective Disorder is a chronic mental health condition that is often misdiagnosed. This mental illness causes both psychotic episodes as well as a mood disorder. This can lead to a partial diagnosis if all symptoms are not carefully considered.
There are two types of Schizoaffective Disorder; Bipolar Type and Depressive Type, which leads to a tricky diagnosis. This means that the psychotic episodes such as hallucinations and/or delusions are paired with a major mood disorder, being either bipolar or depression. The person can have episodes of depression or mania at the same time as symptoms of schizophrenia are present; which include the hallucinations and delusions. They must also have at least a two week period of delusions or hallucinations without any symptoms of a major mood episode, and also must meet criteria for a major mood disorder for the majority of the time.
How Schizoaffective Disorder Is Diagnosed
To have an actual diagnosis of Schizoaffective Disorder a person must have the following symptoms; hallucinations and/or delusions, disorganized thinking, depressed mood or manic behavior. For the Schizoaffective depressive type, a person will show signs of depression like sadness, emptiness, and feelings of worthlessness. For the Schizoaffective bipolar type, a person will show manic behavior for example feelings of euphoria, increased risky behavior, and racing thoughts.
The causes of this mental illness can be related to stressful events in one’s life, drug use, genetics, and brain chemistry. Symptoms usually begin to manifest between the ages of 16 and 30, which happen to include the primary age group for military service. Treatment for Schizoaffective Disorder consists of medications like antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotics combined with psychotherapy.
Service Connection with the VA
When trying to receive service connection for Schizoaffective Disorder, you must show evidence of the cause or exacerbation of Schizoaffective Disorder during active duty. It is important to understand that you did not have to have an episode while in service. There are multiple prodromal symptoms that may be present before a person actually exhibits an episode for the first time. These prodromal symptoms are a precursor to Schizoaffective Disorder, they are shown prior to the first episode and possibly before any diagnosis of mental illness has been established. These symptoms include depression, anxiety, social withdrawal, isolation, problems with memory, thinking, and attention; trouble functioning in school or at work, unusual thoughts and behaviors; low-stress tolerance, and loss of energy. These symptoms can be a huge help in proving your claim and winning service connection. You can read more about Schizoaffective disorder here.