The causes of schizoaffective disorder are not known.
Like other mental health problems, it may be caused by:
- Stressful life events or trauma. This is more likely to be a cause if you experienced stressful or traumatic events when you were too young to know how to cope with them, or had not been cared for in a way that helped you to develop coping skills. Due to this, you may be particularly vulnerable to a relapse in times of stress.
- Genetic influences. The psychotic and mood symptoms tend to run in families. You may be more likely to develop the symptoms if a close relative has a diagnosis of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
However, there is not much research evidence for a genetic explanation, and many people who have this diagnosis have no family history of mental health problems.
We do not know why someone might develop schizoaffective symptoms rather than schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. It may be that all of these conditions are on a spectrum of ways that individuals may be affected by life events.
This information was published in July 2016. We will revise it in 2019.