How To Differentiate Between Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective Disorder

Schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder have same origin but can affect people differently. Know the symptoms and causes of these disorders.

Puru Bansal
Written by: Puru BansalPublished at: May 23, 2021Updated at: May 23, 2021
How To Differentiate Between Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective Disorder

The effect of mental health concerns can have a direct impact on the physical health and abilities to perform day-to-day tasks. In most mental disorders, an individual has an abnormal interpretation of reality. However, the main concern is to diagnose such conditions, as most mental disorders are categorised the same. The outcome to mental disorders may be the same, but symptoms may seem to be similar. Schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorders are two mental disorders which are completely different from each other, but often mistaken as one. Both have different characteristics, varied symptoms and treatment methods. Let us know about these two mental health disorders from Psychologist Dr.Tanu Singh from Healthcare Clinic, Lucknowand how different are they from each other.

Characterisation of Schizo-disorders

Despite having the same origin, schizoaffective disorder and schizophrenia are two different disorders, and both have different criteria of differentiation. Psychologist Dr. Tanu Singh from Healthcare Clinic, Lucknow describes that the origin remains same for both of them. “Both of these are core psychotic disorders and hence posses some common features or symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions and disintegrated thinking. This helps to understand the prominence of these disorders but does not reflect that they are truly interconnected. People suffering from either of the disorder face problems related to false beliefs and trouble understanding.”


To understand the difference in both disorders we need to understand the complexity of one disorder at a time.

What is Schizophrenia?

It is a mental health condition which causes inability of the person to think properly. It is quite possible that the person suffering from this mental disorder may have different approach towards reality. It becomes stressful for them to interact with other people due to presence of psychotic symptoms. Schizophrenia patients are unable to show much emotion and tend to speak less. They generally get hallucinations and delusions which affect their speech ability and lead to disorganised behaviour. Other problems include inattention, memory loss, inability to process information and trouble in problem-solving.

What Is Schizoaffective Disorder?

This type of disorder can be both severe and non-severe depending on the type of schizoaffective disorder. It is a mental health condition where person experiences psychotic symptoms as delusion, hallucinations, disorganised thinking etc. which further leads him to mood disorders, depression or mania. It can be further classified depending on its types-

Bipolar Schizoaffective type- This is categorised when the person has had episodes of mania or major depression. This can be tricky to treat and hence a complex type of disorder.

Depressive Schizoaffective type- This type of disorder occurs when there has been incidents of major depression but did not go towards mania.  

Difference in Symptoms 

Since they come from the same origin there are not major differences in symptoms but are enough to categorize them separately. Schizophrenia has more chances of person developing mood disorders whereas that is not the prominent case with schizoaffective disorder.


Symptoms for Schizophrenia 

  • Hallucinations
  • Flat affect
  • Disorganised thinking
  • Chronic and persistent psychotic symptoms
  • Delusions 

Symptoms For Schizoaffective disorder

  • Disorganised thinking
  • Depression
  • Mood disorders
  • Mania
  • Hallucinations 
  • Episodes of psychotic symptoms 

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What Is Difference in Progression Of These Disorders?

Duration of schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder are different because they affect people differently. Psychotic symptoms which are present in schizophrenia tend to stay for longer and are constant whereas in case of schizoaffective disorder symptoms keep coming and disappearing. Also people with schizoaffective disorder experience having periods in between when they don’t have any symptom whereas schizophrenia ones have opposite tendency. This happens because the condition of schizophrenia is chronic illness which remains for longer duration of time.

Mood Disorders in Schizoaffective Disorder

A person affected with schizoaffective disorder will continue to experience mood changes and symptoms for almost two third of the span till illness continues. Mood disorders are serious in this type of disorders and hence the person may suffer from number of bad episodes. However duration of mood disorders is still less as compared to psychotic symptoms present in the schizoaffective disorder. 


Difference Between Mood and Psychotic Symptoms

Mood symptoms are generally not expected in schizophrenia without psychotic symptoms. Being a chronic illness psychotic symptoms are always present during the duration of the disease but mood symptoms are variable. On the other hand schizoaffective disorder does not possess continuous symptoms rather psychotic symptoms also keep varying. At times depression is prominent in this disorder, at sometimes it’s not. In schizoaffective disorders it is possible that a person may be suffering from mood disorders and not from psychotic disorder. Therefore it is difficult to diagnose a person who is suffering from schizoaffective disorder than schizophrenia.

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Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective Disorder come from the same source of origin that is psychotic disorders but still have many differences. Schizophrenia is a chronic psychotic illness and disorder whereas a schizoaffective disorder is a combination of psychotic disorder and mood disorder. The prominent part tends to differ in schizoaffective disorder hence making it a complex illness to understand. Symptoms of both disorders can define the difference between the two but it also is dependent on the duration. Duration of mood disorders is schizoaffective disorder is more than in schizophrenia. Psychotic disorders remain prominent over patients suffering from schizophrenia. Hence it is recommended to consult a psychologist if you find any of these mental health disorders. 

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