How to Identify the Different Between Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective Disorder?

Schizophrenia can occur in conjunction with depression or mania. Learn how to distinguish between schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder.

Those who are unfamiliar with the signs and symptoms of mental illness may feel overwhelmed. Physicians, psychiatrists, and other mental health experts are educated to diagnose mental illness, but understanding the symptoms of different diseases can help you get the right treatment and improve your quality of life.

Although most people have heard of schizophrenia and can name some of its symptoms, schizoaffective disorder is less well-known. Schizoaffective disorder, which affects only a small fraction of the population, is characterized by the coexistence of schizophrenia symptoms with either sadness or mania. Below are the main distinctions between the two illnesses.


Around 1% of the population is affected by schizophrenia. Males usually get schizophrenia in their early 20, whereas women usually develop it in their late 20s or early 30s. The following symptoms must be present for more than a month to acquire a clinical diagnosis of schizophrenia:

  • Delusions are beliefs that have no basis in reality.
  • Hallucinations are the perception of seeing, hearing, or sensing things that are not real.
  • Disorganized speech consists of meaningless words or sentences that do not fit together.
  • Behavior that is disorganized or catatonic – Agitated or odd behavior or a lack of attentiveness.
  • General apathy– disregarding personal hygiene, lack of enthusiasm in activities, or a lack of facial gestures.

Unless treated, the appearance of these symptoms often lasts at least 6 months. They must interfere with self-care, employment, or relationships and must not be the result of drugs or alcohol. Medication, counseling, and community support are used to treat schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia Quiz (Self-Assessment)

Do I have schizophrenia? Take this schizophrenia quiz to discover whether you could benefit from a mental health professional’s diagnosis and treatment.

Schizoaffective Disorder

Schizoaffective disorder affects around 0.3% of the general population. Males are more likely than women to acquire schizoaffective disorder. ³ A person suffering from schizoaffective illness displays the symptoms of schizophrenia (as stated above) as well as a mood episode characterized by depression and mania. ⁴

Within a two-week period, a depressive episode needs five or more of the following symptoms:

  • depressed mood
  • a loss of enjoyment in the previously loved activity
  • changes in weight or appetite
  • Sleep changes
  • movement slowing
  • insufficient energy
  • sentiments of worthlessness or remorse
  • having problems concentrating
  • Suicidal or death-related ideas

A manic episode involves at least one week of high or irritated mood, increased activity or energy, and at least three of the following symptoms:

  • increased self-esteem or sense of grandiosity
  • needing less sleep
  • becoming more talkative
  • racing thoughts
  • tending to become easily distracted
  • increased goal-directed activities (energy)
  • participating in high-risk conduct (i.e. sexual, financial, etc.)

Sometimes an individual with schizoaffective disorder only experiences schizophrenia symptoms and depressive episodes. This is known as depressive-type schizoaffective disorder. A person who experiences schizophrenia symptoms during mania or mania depressive episodes has bipolar-type schizoaffective disorder.

Schizoaffective disorder is treated with a combination of medication, therapy, and community support (, e.g., family and friends). Individuals suffering from the schizoaffective disorder are especially vulnerable to co-occurring disorders such as substance abuse.

Schizoaffective Disorder Quiz

Complete this simple questionnaire to determine if you could be suffering from Schizoaffective disorder.

What the Physician Will Wish to Know

If you or a loved one are being assessed for schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder, a physician may pose the following questions:

  • Personal hygiene. Excellent or bad?
  • Is the individual typically cooperative or readily angered?
  • Do the facial expressions correspond with the mood?
  • Does the patient look you in the eye?
  • Are the movements gradual, as though the individual were going through water?
  • Do words and phrases conform to a typical mental process?
  • Does the individual appear to be depressed or manic?
  • Does he or she possess an inflated sense of self?
  • Is the patient aware of his name? Does he know the day of the week?
  • Does the patient respond to fictitious stimuli?
  • Does the patient experience paranoia?
  • Have they entertained suicidal notions?
  • Has the patient recently consumed alcohol or drugs?

Schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder symptoms can be addressed via treatment, thus it is essential to obtain the proper care. Both diagnoses are compatible with healthy and fulfilling lives.