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.
Treatment for schizoaffective disorder
Each person's experience of schizoaffective disorder will vary, as will the treatments that work best for them.
Different treatments may be helpful for symptoms of psychosis, mania or depression. If you're experiencing a combination of symptoms, you may need a combination of treatments. Or you may need different types of treatment at different times.
On this page you can find information on:
These are taken from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines on the treatment of schizophrenia, which also covers schizoaffective disorder.
You may be offered some form of counselling or psychotherapy, also known as talking therapies.
The main type of therapy suggested by NICE in the treatment of schizoaffective disorder is cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT). CBT may help you to connect your thoughts, feelings and behaviour with your symptoms. It can also help you to develop ways of coping with difficult experiences.
For more information see our pages on talking therapies.
I have found talking therapies to be really helpful, and a way to learn how to cope with stressful events and look after myself better.
Art, music, dance or drama therapies may help you to express how you are feeling, especially if it's difficult to talk about things. These kinds of therapies may help you come to terms with traumatic events that you may have experienced in the past.
You might find that arts therapies are enough to manage your symptoms on their own. Or they might work best alongside another treatment, such as medication. There is no ‘right’ approach. What works for you as an individual is the right approach.
For further information see our pages on arts and creative therapies.
This is a form of treatment that aims to provide support for the whole household. It can help your family, or the people you live with, to understand:
- What you're going through
- How their responses may help or make matters worse for you, as well as each other
- What's helpful and unhelpful for you
For example, if you're very distressed and your family members are very worried about you, they may focus too much attention on you without meaning to. This might make you feel more distressed.
Family intervention can help you:
- Understand how your experience and symptoms affect those living with you
- Manage your symptoms and think of ways to cope with problems
- Communicate your needs with the people around you
For more information, speak to your community mental health team or psychiatrist.
If you're a friend or family member of someone with schizoaffective disorder, see our page on how friends and family can help.
Depending on your symptoms and needs, you may be offered medication.
You may be prescribed:
- An antipsychotic, to help with symptoms of psychosis or mania
- A mood stabiliser, to help prevent or reduce the symptoms of mood episodes
- An antidepressant, to help treat depressive symptoms. If you also experience symptoms of mania, you're unlikely to be prescribed antidepressants alone. This is because there's a risk of them triggering manic episodes
Depending on your symptoms, you may only be offered one type of drug. But a combination of drugs may be offered to help with the different symptoms of schizoaffective disorder.
Remember: always check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any medications together. The medications could interact badly with each other.
Medication (especially antipsychotics) can have an impact on your physical health. You should receive regular check-ups from your GP on your weight, blood pressure, blood sugar levels, cholesterol and heart function.
Smoking can affect the type of side-effects you may get from medication. If you smoke, you may be offered support to stop.
See our pages on things to consider before taking medication and your right to refuse medication for more information. Our pages on coming off medication give guidance on how to come off medication safely.
Experiences of antipsychotics
Watch Laura, Joe, Ziaul and Steve talking about their experience of taking antipsychotics in this video:
I think medicine can help with short term psychotic issues, but the underlying issues and depression side of things has been better dealt with through therapy and lifestyle changes.
This information was published in February 2023. We will revise it in 2026.
References and bibliography available on request.
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