Schizophrenia What Is Schizoaffective Disorder: Bipolar Type? By Julia Childs Heyl, MSW Julia Childs Heyl, MSW Julia Childs Heyl is a clinical social worker who focuses on mental health disparities, the healing of generational trauma, and depth psychotherapy. Learn about our editorial process Updated on February 28, 2022 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Daniel B. Block, MD Medically reviewed by Daniel B. Block, MD LinkedIn Twitter Daniel B. Block, MD, is an award-winning, board-certified psychiatrist who operates a private practice in Pennsylvania. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Marko Geber / Getty Images Table of Contents View All Table of Contents History Symptoms Causes Diagnosis Treatment Coping Schizoaffective disorder is a form of mental illness that has the features of both schizophrenia and a mood disorder. It has two variations: bipolar type and depressive type. A hallmark feature of bipolar type schizoaffective disorder is the presence of manic episodes. Manic episodes include periods of heightened emotion, ranging from joy to rage. Schizoaffective disorder is misdiagnosed with such frequency that some have called to eradicate the disorder from the DSM-5. This is because its symptoms overlap with many other mental illnesses, making it challenging to diagnose, thus increasing barriers to treatment. Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that exists on a spectrum, with cyclothymia being the mildest diagnosis and bipolar I being the most severe diagnosis. Due to the variation in this mood disorder, one can imagine how difficult it is to experience those symptoms alongside schizophrenic features. Are There Different Types of Bipolar Disorder? History of Bipolar Type Schizoaffective Disorder Before this illness was called schizoaffective disorder, it was referred to as “schizoaffective psychosis,” first identified by psychiatrist Jacob Kasanin in 1933. Nearly 20 years later, the first and second editions of the DSM categorized schizoaffective disorder as a variation of schizophrenia and a form of a psychotic disorder. After clinicians struggled to diagnose patients properly, schizoaffective disorder became a diagnosis in 1987’s DSM-III-R. Schizoaffective Disorder and Schizophrenia: What Are the Differences? Bipolar Type Schizoaffective Disorder Symptoms Before we dive into the symptoms of bipolar type schizoaffective disorder, it is essential to remember that none of the symp toms can be substance-induced for a diagnosis of this illness. Meaning, that if you've taken a substance that results in one of the symptoms of bipolar type schizoaffective disorder, then this does qualify for a diagnosis of this disorder. First, there are the psychotic symptoms that mirror schizophrenic features, such as: Hallucinations Delusions Disorganized speech (speaking incoherently, e.g., jumping from topic to topic) Disorganized behavior (e.g., inappropriate laughter amid a crisis, becoming unexpectedly rageful, or behaving like a child.) Next are the bipolar features. To differentiate between bipolar type and depressed type, note that those with the depressive type will only experience a depressed mood while those with the bipolar type will experience manic behavior. Those with the bipolar type may experience the following: Unexplained feelings of euphoriaAn increase in energyExcessive spendingUncharacteristic sexual behaviorImpulsive actions that have negative consequences Positive Psychotic Symptoms Causes of Bipolar Type Schizoaffective Disorder While researchers do not know the exact cause of schizoaffective disorder, there are some possible causes. Let's take a look at them. Genetic Link Schizoaffective disorder and bipolar disorder both carry a genetic link. So, you’re more likely to develop the illness if someone in your family has it. However, it isn’t a guarantee, and professionals are just barely beginning to touch on the impact brain chemistry has on the development of schizoaffective disorder. Though research on the relationship between the two is still developing, brain scans can help researchers better understand more about the brain's structure to determine whether it can be linked to a schizoaffective disorder diagnosis. Other Factors Some factors can trigger bipolar type schizoaffective disorder. Keep in mind that these factors alone aren’t enough to cause one to develop schizoaffective disorder. Still, if there are already risk factors like a close relative having the illness, these factors can press the condition to develop and fully present. Stressful events—think along the lines of trauma, financial struggles, loss of stable housing, ending a relationship, or loss of significant social support—can lead to the onset of symptoms. Substance abuse, including alcohol abuse, can exacerbate symptoms and be especially troublesome for those experiencing schizoaffective disorder. Diagnosis of Bipolar Type Schizoaffective Disorder Diagnosing schizoaffective disorder is particularly challenging since its symptoms overlap with many other disorders. Furthermore, there is vast variation in how and when these symptoms present. Don’t be discouraged—there is hope for a correct diagnosis. The best first step in getting diagnosed is to begin therapy with a licensed therapist specializing in schizoaffective disorders. They can help track your symptoms, collaborate with a psychiatrist, and come to an accurate diagnosis over time. How to Find a Therapist Bipolar Type Schizoaffective Disorder Treatment Effective treatment for bipolar type schizoaffective disorder is out there. Below provides an overview of treatment options for this disorder. Medication The first line of support is medication. Seek out a psychiatrist with experience in schizoaffective disorder to find the proper medication for you. Medication options include mood stabilizers and antipsychotic medications. It isn’t uncommon to land on a combination of a few medicines. Pyschotherapy The second form of treatment is consistent psychotherapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most common form of therapy recommended. In CBT, you will develop impulse control, increase your relational skills, and create specific strategies to manage triggers in your life. There is even a type of CBT called CBTp that is cognitive-behavioral therapy specifically for psychosis. This form of therapy is an excellent addition to medication. Affording treatment can be a hurdle in finding relief. Luckily, most major insurance providers do offer mental health coverage. If you’re having a hard time finding a provider within your network that feels like a good fit, there are low-fee mental health provisions throughout the nation. Looking into any local low-fee clinics, mental health programs at nearby universities, and reaching out to a therapist for some referrals can all be good places to start. Experts Identify Three Key Factors That Determine Mental Illness Coping With Bipolar Type Schizoaffective Disorder Living with bipolar type schizoaffective disorder can feel very lonely and frustrating. Due to mental health stigma and struggles in treatment options, it isn’t uncommon to feel hopeless. Social support from folks willing to learn about your condition and support you through any episodes is vital. Asking that family members and loved ones brush up on their knowledge of this condition is the first step—you can even send them this article as a start. Finding support from those who have this disorder is equally important. Group therapy or support groups are a place where you can connect with others who understand what you are experiencing. Such groups are becoming more and more accessible, thanks to the rise of telehealth. Asking your mental health provider to help you sort through referrals is a great way to get started. A Word From Verywell You are never alone. If you are experiencing a psychiatric crisis, please reach out to your local emergency room immediately. A final reminder: Healing is possible. Trust this truth. If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database. 6 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Wy TJP, Saadabadi A. Schizoaffective disorder. In: StatPearls. Published August 6th, 2021. Abrams DJ, Rojas DC, Arciniegas DB. Is schizoaffective disorder a distinct categorical diagnosis? A critical review of the literature. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2008;4(6):1089-1109. doi: 10.2147/ndt.s4120 Lee C, Sinclair D, O'Donnell M, et al. Transcriptional changes in the stress pathway are related to symptoms in schizophrenia and to mood in schizoaffective disorder. Schizophr Res. 2019;213:87-95. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2019.06.026 Archibald L, Brunette MF, Wallin DJ, Green AI. Alcohol Use Disorder and Schizophrenia or Schizoaffective Disorder. Alcohol Res. 2019;40(1):arcr.v40.1.06. doi:10.35946/arcr.v40.1.06 Lintunen J, Taipale H, Tanskanen A, et al. Long-term real-world effectiveness of pharmacotherapies for schizoaffective disorder. Schizophr Bull. 2021;47(4):1099-1107. doi:10.1093/schbul/sbab004 Premkumar P, Peters E, Fannon D, et al. Coping styles predict responsiveness to cognitive behaviour therapy in psychosis. Psychiatry Res. 2011;187(3):354-362. doi:10.1016/j.psychres.2010.12.029 By Julia Childs Heyl, MSW Julia Childs Heyl, MSW, is a clinical social worker and writer. As a writer, she focuses on mental health disparities and uses critical race theory as her preferred theoretical framework. In her clinical work, she specializes in treating people of color experiencing anxiety, depression, and trauma through depth therapy and EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) trauma therapy. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist Online Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.