Less Mood Disorder, More Psychosis

Schizoaffective disorder may share more symptoms with schizophrenia than bipolar disorder

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Not every mental health disorder fits easily into a category. Some slide on a scale between two well-defined disorders.

For a recent report, researchers looked at previous studies that compared the symptoms between patients with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder.

The results showed that schizoaffective disorder was a bit more like schizophrenia than bipolar disorder, but not by much.

"See a therapist for proper diagnosis of your mood problems."

Tobias Pagel, PhD candidate from the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at the University of Cologne Medical School in Germany, led an investigation to find links between schizoaffective disorder, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Schizoaffective disorder has not been well understood or even well-defined in the psychiatric community. Patients with schizoaffective disorder can show symptoms of both bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), schizoaffective disorder symptoms that are similar to schizophrenia can include delusions, hallucinations and a loosened grip on reality.

Schizoaffective disorder also has symptoms that are similar to bipolar disorder, which is an affective or mood disorder. Symptoms can include depression, disturbed sleep, erratic and increased energy, impulsive behavior and heightened distractibility, according to NAMI.

For this study, the researchers looked at 50 studies published between 1983 and 2009 that compared the demographic information and symptoms of 18,312 patients. Of these patients, 2,684 had schizoaffective disorder, 4,814 had bipolar disorder and 10,814 had schizophrenia.

Each of the studies used the version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) that was in use at the time of the study.

Results showed that 52 percent of schizoaffective disorder cases were females, compared to 39 percent of schizophrenia cases and 45 percent of bipolar cases.

People with schizoaffective disorder had been living with the disorder for an average of 13 years compared to 11 years among people with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

“[T]he majority of studies showed schizoaffective patients to be more like schizophrenia than bipolar disorder patients in seven out of nine demographic and clinical categories as well as five out of eight psychometric measures,” said the authors.

The authors concluded that the results of the study showed that schizoaffective disorder was not primarily an affective (mood) disorder like bipolar disorder. The authors recommended further investigation into how schizoaffective disorder more strongly resembles schizophrenia than bipolar disorder.

This study was published in March in Bipolar Disorders: An International Journal of Psychiatry and Neurosciences.

The Bruce J. Anderson Foundation and the McLean Private Donors Psychiatric Research Fund provided funding for this project. No conflicts of interest were declared. This report was part of Tobias Pagel’s doctoral dissertation.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 3, 2013
Last Updated:
April 6, 2013