December 1, 2015
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Schizoaffective Disorder (cont.)

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How can schizoaffective disorder be diagnosed?

To diagnose schizoaffective disorder, one first has to rule out any medical problem that may be the actual cause of the mood and behavioral changes. Once medical causes have been looked for and not found, a mental illness such as schizoaffective disorder could be considered. The diagnosis will best be made by a licensed mental-health professional, like a psychiatrist, who can evaluate the patient and carefully sort through a variety of mental illnesses that might look similarly upon the initial examination. Such illnesses include any other schizophrenia spectrum disorder like schizophrenia, delusional disorder and schizotypal personality disorder, as well as any disorder in which both mood and psychotic symptoms may occur or appear to occur, like borderline personality disorder, dissociative identity disorder or major depression with psychotic features. The physician will examine someone in whom schizoaffective disorder is suspected either in an office or in the emergency department. The physician's role is to ensure that the patient doesn't have any medical problems, including active drug use, since symptoms of those conditions can mimic the symptoms of schizoaffective disorder. The doctor takes the patient's history and performs a physical examination. Laboratory and other tests, sometimes including a computerized tomography (CT) scan of the brain, are performed. Physical findings can relate to the symptoms associated with schizoaffective disorder or to the medications the person may be taking.

What are criteria for diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder?

According to the newly released Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-V), in order to be diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, an individual must meet the following diagnostic criteria:

  • An uninterrupted period of illness that includes either a major depressive disorder or a manic episode along with at least two active symptoms of schizophrenia (hallucinations, delusions, disorganized speech, severely disorganized or catatonic behaviors, negative symptoms like decreased emotional expression or movement)
  • Delusions or hallucinations occur at least two weeks without major depressive or manic symptoms at some time during the illness.
  • The major mood symptoms occur for most of the duration of the illness.
  • The illness is not the result of a medical condition or the effects of alcohol, other drugs of abuse, or a medication.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/10/2014


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