Schizoaffective disorder is characterized by a combination of schizophrenia and mood disorders. A hard disease to categorize, it usually features one or more of the primary symptoms of schizophrenia (delusions, disorganized behavior, hallucinations, etc.) and manic episodes that may or may not include depression.
Imagine the difficulty of schizoaffective disorder treatment when it is combined with drug or alcohol addiction. Such is the challenge for those working with dual diagnosis patients (those who have coexisting mental illness issues and a drug or alcohol addiction).
The challenge in treating these problems of schizoaffective disorder and drug or alcohol addiction together stems from several factors:
Similarity in symptoms
If you attempt to treat the depression symptoms of an individual with this particular diagnosis, what is that you are actually treating? Is it the schizoaffective disorder? Or is it depression as a result of alcohol addiction? The distinction is important if the individual is to be treated properly, and is one of the chief reasons why those who have both mental illness and an addiction need to seek help from those facilities that specialize in dual diagnoses.
Prone to addiction
Those with acute mental illness, such as those suffering from schizoaffective disorder, are more likely than the general population to become addicted to drugs or alcohol. Occasional drug use is not going to be an option for these individuals. Their issues can take them from causal drug use to addiction very quickly. So by the time they get help, chances are that the addiction is in a more advanced state – and harder to treat.
Isolation and loneliness play a role
One of the most distinct characteristics of those suffering from schizoaffective disorder is isolation. Those who suffer from the disease tend to live lonely lives. And even if they hold down a job (which is difficult) most will not interact regularly with their coworkers. Isolation such as this is a breeding ground for untreated drug and alcohol addiction. With nobody around to provide “checks and balances” on the individual’s drug or alcohol use, things may spiral out of control.
Schizoaffective Disorder Treatment and Addiction: The Chicken or the Egg
In order to undergo schizoaffective disorder treatment along with addiction issues, professionals must determine what symptoms are associated with which condition. Because mental illness looks very similar to the symptoms associated with addiction, this can be a challenging task.
However, to not fully understand the source of all the symptoms the individual is experiencing is to potentially misdiagnose the problems, and slow down the recovery process even further.
The professionals at the Dual Diagnosis Centers deal with co-existing mental illness and addiction every day – even with complicated issues such as schizoaffective disorder. By treating the individual in a safe, supportive environment, the staff is able to get that person to open up. And by opening up, he or she will begin to help provide the information needed for treatment. It is a non-confrontational, engaging style of treatment that has helped thousands of people who have come through the doors of these centers.