Teen Schizoaffective Disorder Treatment

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Sovereign Health Rancho San Diego is a behavioral health center specializing in the care and treatment of adolescents ages 12 to 17 with mental health disorders, including schizoaffective disorder, as well as co-occurring addictions and other behavioral problems. Accredited by The Joint Commission, our facility allows our teen patients to enjoy outdoor activities while receiving state-of-the-art care from our respected therapists.

What is schizoaffective disorder?

Schizoaffective disorder is a mental health disorder characterized by symptoms of schizophrenia, such as hallucinations and delusions, as well as symptoms of a mood disorder, such as mania or depression. Due to the fact that the disorder shares symptoms of other conditions, it can be difficult to diagnose at first. The disorder is less studied than schizophrenia or mood disorders, and treatment strategies from both are incorporated into the treatment of the condition.

Symptoms of schizoaffective disorder

The symptoms of schizoaffective disorder can be profound and require close observation. Some patients may show symptoms of depression, while others have bipolar disorder symptoms. Individual teens will show varying symptoms, which include:

  • Hallucinations – seeing or hearing things not seen or heard by others
  • Delusions – fixed beliefs that are held regardless of evidence to the contrary
  • Disorganized thinking – lack of continuity in speech, answers unrelated to questions
  • Depressed mood – sadness, feeling of worthlessness and emptiness
  • Manic behavior – if bipolar symptoms are diagnosed, a patient may experience euphoria, have racing thoughts and engage in risky behavior
  • Changes in sleep patterns and appetite
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts
  • A mixed episode – characterized by meeting the criteria for both a manic episode and a major depressive episode nearly every day for at least one week

“Schizoaffective disorder is a chronic mental health condition characterized by symptoms of schizophrenia, such as hallucinations and delusions, as well as symptoms of a mood disorder, such as mania or depression.”

Causes of schizoaffective disorder

Although a specific cause is unknown, a combination of causes is thought to contribute to the condition, including:

  • Genetics – schizoaffective disorder has been shown to run in families, increasing the chance of developing the disorder
  • Individual brain chemistry and structure – brain scans are beginning to help research in this area
  • Stress – loss of a loved one, divorce, job loss or other stress can initiate symptoms
  • Drug use – psychoactive drugs such as LSD have been associated with the development of the condition

Diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder

With a combination of schizophrenia and depressive or bipolar disorder, diagnosis can be difficult. To confirm diagnosis, a teen must present the following symptoms:

  • Schizophrenia symptoms in combination with either depression or mania
  • Hallucinations or delusions for two weeks or more in the absence of a major mood episode
  • The presence of a major mood episode for the majority of time of the disorder
  • Substance abuse not responsible for any of the symptoms

Medication for schizoaffective disorder

Psychiatric medications such as antipsychotics and antidepressants influence brain chemicals that regulate thoughts and emotions. Most clinicians prescribe an initial low dose of a particular medication and observe the effects. Because each person is an individual, what works best for some may not work as well for others, and it may take a little time before the most effective medication is found.

Psychotherapy for schizoaffective disorder

Cognitive behavioral therapy involves one-on-one sessions between patient and therapist for a limited number of sessions. A therapist teaches a patient to identify and become aware of inaccurate or negative thoughts so that challenging situations can be responded to in a healthier and more positive manner. Coping techniques are learned so that a patient may access and use them even after treatment is completed.


Self-management provides patients with options for beneficial lifestyle changes to cope with symptoms or side effects of treatment. Self-management may be taught by mental health professionals or peer support workers who have experienced mental health problems themselves.

Therapeutic activities

In addition to clinical treatment, Sovereign Health Rancho San Diego offers fun, therapeutic activities including equine therapy, yoga, hiking in nearby canyons and field trips to local places of interest.

An on-site academic program, EDGE is available, offering a small classroom with top-of-the-line technology, a gender specific learning environment, an academic facilitator and tutors at a ratio of 1-to-5. Each teen has 1.5 hours daily in EDGE, 7.5 hours a week, to work on academics.

If you would like further information about schizoaffective disorder or Sovereign’s treatment programs, please call our 24/7 helpline to speak with a member of our team.

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