When we think of depression it is often in terms of its level of intensity or perhaps the fact that it frequently co-exists with anxiety. Depression however is pervasive and it touches the lives of people with many other mental health conditions. One such example is depression with symptoms of schizophrenia. The term schizoaffective depressive disorder is applied in this situation.
Some specialists question whether schizoaffective disorder is a unique condition or whether it is merely schizophrenia with depression as a feature. It has always been generally accepted that schizoaffective disorder is less disabling than either schizophrenia or a mood disorder such as bipolar. This perhaps explains why so many people with the disorder manage to get by day-to-day. In qualifying that last statement it is worth pointing out that avoidance of treatment can lead to an isolated existence in which the combined symptoms serve to severely restrict normal function. So, whilst the presence of so-called affective symptoms (e.g. depression) has always been considered more favorably, there are those who feel this view is a little dated. They point to depression and suicidal thinking as often the reason for hospital admission and later relapse.
During an episode of depression, the symptoms of schizophrenia will also be prominent. This may include paranoid thinking, ideas of reference, delusions and hallucinations. The mood of the individual may swing from depression to mania although symptoms of depression without mania are more common.
As to why people become depressed before, during, or after an episode of psychosis may revolve around the fact that psychosis itself imposes such radical effects on the lifestyle of the individual. Many people talk of a sense of alienation, a loss of self-esteem and negative thinking.
When comparing the lives of people with schizophrenia who either have or have not developed depression suggest that the nature of the psychotic experience itself becomes a major factor in the onset. People with depression are also known to experience far longer periods of psychosis.
There is no specific treatment for schizoaffective depressive disorder. Treatments tend to be a combination of drugs used for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Some studies point to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as an effective treatment but other options involve self-help strategies, for example:
- Ensuring you eat a regular balanced diet.
- Keeping stress to a minimum.
- Using relaxation techniques.
- Getting plenty of sleep.
- Avoiding alcohol or drug use.
- Getting regular exercise.
- Sticking with a routine.
- Accepting that if a relapse does occur it will pass.
Birchwood, M & Jackson, C (2005) Schizophrenia. Psychology Press.
"Schizoaffective disorder." Mayoclinic.com. Mayo Clinic, 23 12 2008. Web. 1 Oct 2010. <http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/schizoaffective-disorder/DS00866>.