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Schizoaffective disorder

Explains what schizoaffective disorder is, including its symptoms and causes. Gives advice on how you can help yourself and what types of treatment and support are available, as well as guidance for friends and family.

This section is for the friends and family of someone who has been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder.

Support from family and friends can play an important role in helping someone recover from an episode of schizoaffective disorder. It may reduce the likelihood of them having further episodes.

It can also be stressful to care for or support somebody. You may need support for yourself.

This page will offer some suggestions on how you can help others and yourself:

Understand the diagnosis

Learning more about schizoaffective disorder can help you:

  • Recognise early symptoms or triggers
  • Give you the confidence to discuss problems and offer help
  • React calmly in difficult situations and work towards a positive outcome

If someone is experiencing symptoms of psychosis, such as hearing voices, it may be helpful if you:

  • Accept that the voices are real for them, even if you can't hear them
  • Focus on how they're feeling, rather than what they're experiencing
  • Help them manage their symptoms. For example, you could suggest distractions

Ask how you and others can help

Ask them directly how you can be most helpful. These are some ways you could help:

  • Support them to get treatment or accessing a particular service
  • Keep them company if they're feeling anxious about going to something new, such as an appointment or activity
  • Check in with them regularly for a chat if you're not nearby
  • Support them in making decisions. Even if they ask you to act on their behalf, try to encourage them to make their own decisions 
  • Respect the choices they make, even if they're not what you'd choose for yourself
  • Be clear about what your own limits are in terms of what you can help with 
  • Help them get alternative support if necessary. For example, it may be possible to find an independent advocate to help them

When they’re feeling well, it may be helpful to discuss how you can help them in a crisis. Or if they’re at the start of another episode. You might:

  • Encourage them to write a crisis plan
  • Discuss and look out for symptoms
  • Be aware or make a note of their triggers

This can help them to avoid crises or manage them differently in future where possible.

For further information see our pages on supporting someone to seek helpadvocacy and planning for a crisis

My fiancée isn't afraid to talk to me if she thinks I am getting worse. This has helped me notice changes myself.

Get help in an emergency

If you think your friend or family member may be at risk of hurting themselves or others, it may be necessary to consider a Mental Health Act assessment for them.

The nearest relative, as defined under the Mental Health Act, can request that the person at risk be given a mental health assessment by an approved mental health professional. This assessment involves considering treatment options. This may include deciding if the person should be admitted to hospital under the Mental Health Act.

For further information see our pages on the Mental Health Act, crisis services, sectioning, and the nearest relative.

Get support for yourself

It can be very upsetting when someone you're close to is struggling with their mental health.

You may find it helpful to get support in coping with your own feelings, either through talking therapy or peer support, where you can talk to other people who have similar experiences. This support may be available at a local Mind or other carers' groups, such as Carers UK.

Carers are also entitled to have their own needs for practical and emotional support assessed by social services. This is called a carer's assessment. A number of national and local voluntary organisations provide help and information for carers on these topics. 

For further information, see our pages on how to cope when supporting someone else, managing stress and maintaining your wellbeing.

This information was published in February 2023. We will revise it in 2026.  

References and bibliography available on request.

If you want to reproduce this content, see our permissions and licensing page.

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