Schizophrenia vs. Schizoaffective disorder (The difference)

Schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder are two different disorders as categorized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental disorders.

Despite many similarities of psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations, delusion, and disorganized thought patterns, these two disorders have much difference.

They should be diagnosed differently because of the difference in their treatment and prognosis.

This article will first explain schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder and then will explore in-depth the differences between the two disorders in terms of schizophrenia vs. schizoaffective disorders. 


Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder in which perceptions of reality becomes distorted.

It is characterized by hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized thought patterns.

Schizophrenia impairs the everyday functioning of a human being and makes him disable by limiting normal functioning.

Individuals suffering from schizophrenia need lifetime treatment and support but early detection of symptoms and treatment can bring the symptoms under control and improve the long term outlook in life. 

Symptoms of Schizophrenia:

Symptoms of schizophrenia cover a broad range of symptoms such as behavioral, cognitive, and effective.

The most common symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, and disorganization in speech.

This disorganization in speech reflects impaired cognitions.

The descriptions of the symptoms are as follow:


When a person hallucinates he perceives things that do not actually occur. It is a perception without stimulus.

Despite this being an experience without any stimulus yet it has the full force of actual experience for a person experiencing it.

A person can hallucinate from any of the five senses but hearing voices is the most common type of hallucination. 


Delusions can be explained as false beliefs. These are believed which are not based on reality.

Such as a person may think that he is being harassed or harmed, he has divine abilities and traits or the other person is insanely in love with him. 

Disorganized thinking: 

Disorganized thinking is reflected in disorganized speech.

A speech of a person suffering from schizophrenia is like a salad where different unrelated words are put together.

The answer to any question is either partially or completely irrelevant.

This irrelevancy indicates that the person loses the trail of thought while thinking about something.

Disorganized motor behavior:

In addition to cognitive symptoms, symptoms of schizophrenia also have behavioral aspects.

Disorganized behavior is depicted in a number of ways.

The behavior of schizophrenia is not focused on any particular goal thus does not have any outcome.

It can include childlike silliness, unpredictable agitation, resistance to instruction, bizarre posture, or completely irrelevant behavior. 

Affective symptoms:

Schizophrenics also go through affective changes such as lack of interest in daily activities, social withdrawal, and lack of ability to feel pleasure. 

Symptoms of schizophrenia vary widely among individuals. They also vary in their course of worsening and remission.

They appear to be in their mid to late ’20s. Children are not diagnosed with schizophrenia and it is also uncommon to diagnose the elderly with this disorder. 

Schizoaffective disorder:

Schizoaffective disorder is characterized by schizophrenic symptoms such as hallucination delusion and disorganized thought patterns in addition to mood disorders such as depression and mania.

Schizoaffective disorder is of two types. It should be noted that both types include schizophrenic symptoms. 

  • Bipolar type: It includes symptoms of mania with at least one major depressive episode
  • Depressive type: It includes only depressive symptoms without any symptoms of mania

The schizoaffective disorder varies widely in each individual. Individuals suffering from this disorder may face difficulty in their daily functioning at school or at work which may result in loneliness.

They may need continuous assistance to perform daily life activities.

Schizoaffective disorder has a higher prognosis if symptoms are detected and treated early. 

Symptoms of Schizoaffective disorder:

Symptoms of schizoaffective disorders vary from individual to individual. They are more often characterized by the type of disorder that is either bipolar or depressive type.

To be diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder a person needs to have at least one major episode of mood disorder and two weeks of psychotic symptoms. 

In addition to major symptoms which are characterized by the type of disorder, there are some other common symptoms:

  • Incoherence: Impaired cognition and speech 
  • Hallucination: Seeing or hearing thing which is not there (Perception without stimulus)
  • Delusions: False beliefs
  • Depressive symptoms: Feelings of loneliness, emptiness or suicidal ideation 
  • Maniac: Period of elation with decreased need for sleep for weeks
  • Impaired functioning that is academic, occupational and social 
  • Lack of personal care such as the unhygienic physical condition
  • Unusual and bizarre behavior

Schizophrenia vs. Schizoaffective disorder:

Analysis of schizophrenia vs. schizoaffective disorders results in many similarities and differences which are listed as follows.

Schizophrenia vs. Schizoaffective subtle differences: 

Schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorders bear many commonalities but there are some subtle differences that can contribute to the right diagnosis.

Symptoms of schizophrenia develop in the early ’20s while that of schizoaffective disorder develops in the late 20s.

Schizophrenia is characterized solely by psychotic symptoms while schizoaffective disorder in addition to psychotic symptoms has symptoms of mood disorder too.

In schizophrenia, those psychotic symptoms are consistent and chronic which completely impaired the life functioning of human beings while in schizoaffective disorder psychotic symptoms are episodes which result in only partial impairment of life functioning.

Schizophrenia vs. Schizoaffective Symptoms:

The major psychotic symptoms experienced by each are the same which include hallucination, delusion, and disorganized speech.

The only difference there is that individuals suffering from the schizoaffective disorder also experience symptoms of mood disorder which can either include either manic and depressive symptoms or only depressive symptoms. 

Schizophrenia vs. Schizoaffective Causes:

Schizophrenia vs. schizoaffective disorder shows that there are many common symptoms of schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder but the underlying causes of both the disorders differ greatly.

Even after many years of research, medical practitioners have been unable to pinpoint the cause of schizophrenia.

It is usually considered as a result of some changes in brain chemistry such as glutamate and dopamine.

If the father was elderly when a child was born he has more chances of developing symptoms of schizophrenia.

The risk of developing symptoms of schizophrenia becomes even higher if the mother contracts some virus during pregnancy. 

Scientists have not studied schizoaffective disorder as much as they have studied schizophrenia but the cause of the schizoaffective disorder is quite apparent.

Researchers have shown that genes that control the sleep-wake cycle usually contribute to schizoaffective disorder.

It may also result from an individual’s life event such as stressors in their lives.

The schizoaffective disorder also has high comorbidity with other psychological disorders.

It can also result from some developmental issues in individuals’ lives. 

Schizophrenia vs. Schizoaffective Duration of Mood episode:

Another MAJOR difference between schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder is the duration of mood episodes experienced by the individual.

Individuals suffering from schizoaffective disorder are likely to experience mood disorder for almost half or completely through the duration of illness in addition to psychotic symptoms.

In schizophrenia, the duration of symptoms of mood disorder is much less than the duration of experience of psychotic symptoms. 

Schizophrenia vs. Schizoaffective Duration of Psychotic Symptoms:

Individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia have chronic and persistent psychotic symptoms which can render individuals to perform everyday functions while individuals with schizoaffective disorder do not have such severe psychotic symptoms.

Their disease is mainly characterized by symptoms of mood disorder.

Schizophrenia vs. Schizoaffective course of the disease:

Schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder also differ in their course.

Schizophrenia is a chronic disease with severe symptoms that make an individual unable to perform daily life activity.

Their behavior is not focused thus resulting in no outcome. Once developed these symptoms persist for a lifetime.

On the other hand, the course of schizoaffective disorder is not as much as chronic as schizophrenia.

Individuals diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder need assistance in their everyday functioning but their functioning is not ceased at all as in schizophrenia.

Although symptoms might have a major impact on everyday life activities such as keeping up with school and holding a reasonable job such threats can be minimized by assistance. 

Schizophrenia vs. Schizoaffective Relationship between psychotic and mood symptoms:

In schizophrenia, psychotic symptoms are always present whether a person is experiencing mood symptoms or not.

Symptoms of mood disorder might come and go in schizophrenia but in schizoaffective disorder symptoms of mood disorder persist.

A patient might not experience any psychotic symptoms while experiencing symptoms of mood disorder.

It should be noted here though for the diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder a person must experience psychotic for specific time duration consistently which is usually one or two weeks. 

Schizophrenia vs. Schizoaffective Treatment:

Analyzing schizophrenia vs. schizoaffective disorder shows that both disorders have different underlying causes, different courses of diseases, and different relationships between psychotic and mood symptoms, they also differ in their treatment.

As the underlying cause of schizophrenia is changed in the brain chemistry of individuals it is treated through medications which are known as antipsychotics such as haloperidol and chlorpromazine.

There are many other new antipsychotics such as lurasidone, Risperidone, ziprasidone, olanzapine, Quetiapine, and asenapine.

To sustain the functioning of an individual these antipsychotics are constantly required which can otherwise result in worsening of symptoms.

To treat the psychotic symptoms of schizoaffective disorder antipsychotics are used.

The only FDA antipsychotic to treat the schizoaffective disorder is Paliperidone.

All other antipsychotic drugs are commonly used too.  In addition to treating psychotic symptoms of schizoaffective disorder, mod symptoms are also needed to be treated.

Commonly antidepressants are used to treat mood symptoms if it is the depressive type and mood stabilizers such as valproate or lithium if the schizoaffective disorder is bipolar type.

Individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia do not need to take these antidepressants and mood stabilizers if mood symptoms are not worse.


Schizophrenia vs. schizoaffective disorder outlines many similarities and differences among them.

They both share common psychotic symptoms such as hallucination, delusion, and disorganized speech patterns.

In addition to psychotic symptoms, individuals diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder experience mood symptoms that can either be depressive and manic symptoms or just depressive symptoms.

Both the diseases also differ in their course as schizophrenia is chronic and persistent and results in the complete cessation of complete life activity while in schizoaffective disorder normal life functioning can be retained with little assistance. 

FAQs about Schizophrenia vs. Schizoaffective

Can schizoaffective disorder turn into schizophrenia disorder? 

There are much fewer chances that schizoaffective disorder turns into schizophrenia as underlying causes of both disorders are different.

Schizoaffective disorder is characterized by psychotic symptoms in addition to mood disorder.

It is a very rare disease only affecting 0.3% of the population around the globe. 

s schizoaffective disorder worse than schizophrenia?

There is no way to judge that either schizoaffective disorder is better or worse than schizophrenia as both the disorders result in grave consequences.

If you look in terms of symptoms than schizoaffective is diagnosed by having a higher number of symptoms than schizophrenia but those symptoms in schizophrenia are more chronic and worse.

What triggers schizoaffective disorder?

The schizoaffective disorder usually results from the imbalance in the brain but there is also a genetic link as a scientist has found that it results from the mutation in the gene which controls the sleep-wake cycle in humans. 


Adrian Preda (2020). The Difference Between Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective Disorder. Retrieved from: Schizophrenia vs. Schizoaffective Disorder Schizophrenia