What Is Schizoaffective Disorder Bipolar Type?

Updated February 17, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Schizoaffective disorder may be one of the most commonly overlooked mental illnesses we currently understand. of mental illness. Many people assume that schizoaffective disorder is the same thing as schizophrenia. However, this is not the case. While schizoaffective disorder can tell some similarities with schizophrenia, it is a completely different diagnosis that may come with its own challenges, ideal treatment options, and prognosis. In this article, we’ll discuss schizoaffective disorder, including each of its subtypes, its symptoms, and the best ways to treat it.

Do You Think You May Have Schizoaffective Disorder Bipolar Type?

What Is Schizoaffective Disorder Bipolar Type?

Schizoaffective disorder (SD) is a mental illness that is typically characterized by a combination of schizophrenic and mood disorder symptoms. The combination of the two types of symptoms means that this disorder is often misdiagnosed as schizophrenia, depression, or bipolar disorder. However, ongoing care and careful observation of symptoms can lead to the correct diagnosis.

Schizoaffective disorder bipolar type is a subtype of SD that includes schizophrenia symptoms in addition to episodes of mania and, in some cases, major depression. Because schizoaffective disorder bipolar type involves so many symptoms, many of which can be hard to detect by others, it can be difficult to diagnose; not all symptoms may be present at the same time, so it can be tricky for patients to communicate the full extent of their experiences. 

Differences Between Schizoaffective Disorder Bipolar Type and Other Disorders

There has been some debate about the diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder bipolar type in the psychiatric community. However, experts believe that this diagnosis is a valid one that’s distinct from other mental health disorders. 

Though bipolar disorder can lead to symptoms of psychosis that may mimic schizophrenia, the main difference between the two stems from the frequency and intensity of these symptoms. A person with schizophrenia may experience delusions, paranoia, and hallucinations, even to the point of losing touch with reality. Someone with bipolar disorder, on the other hand, may experience these symptoms only during a manic episode. They are likely more significantly impacted by symptoms unique to bipolar disorder, like mood swings between extreme highs and lows that make it difficult to sustain a job, relationships, and a sense of stability. 

A person with schizoaffective disorder bipolar type will generally experience a combination of these predominant symptoms, though they may fluctuate over time. It may be an oversimplification to classify this disorder as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder alone; doing so may ignore the very real fact that its symptoms can be uniquely challenging to those who experience them. 

Other Schizoaffective Disorder Types

There are two different types of schizoaffective disorder. The other type is schizoaffective disorder depressive type. This type is very similar to schizoaffective disorder bipolar type, but rather than experiencing extreme lows and highs, people living with this diagnosis may manage periods of intense depression in addition to schizophrenia symptoms. Both disorders are frequently treated in many of the same ways.

Diagnosis Of Schizoaffective Disorder Bipolar Type

Diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder bipolar type can be difficult without ongoing treatment. The doctor must be able to see that a mood disorder coexists with symptoms of schizophrenia. A patient that seeks treatment for schizophrenia symptoms that is not currently in a manic episode may initially be diagnosed as schizophrenic instead.

Some key elements must be present for a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder bipolar type. There must, for instance, be a period in which symptoms of mania persist in conjunction with symptoms of schizophrenia. This establishes that a diagnosis of schizophrenia is not appropriate. There must also be a period, at least two weeks, where symptoms of delusions and hallucinations occur in the absence of mania. 

Another criterion for the diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder bipolar type is that there are symptoms of a mood disorder for the majority of the duration of the illness. This does not necessarily mean that the patient has mania consistently throughout the illness. There are cycles to mood disorders that can show presence even when a major manic episode is not occurring.

Finally, it must be determined that these symptoms are not due to another explainable cause, like substance use, prescription medication, or the existence of other mental health disorders. 

Prevalence Of Schizoaffective Disorder

Based on current estimates, schizoaffective disorder only affects about 0.3% of the American population. However, some psychiatrists and researchers believe that it may be more prevalent than this. It is often believed that more people have schizoaffective disorder bipolar type who have been misdiagnosed with bipolar I disorder (a subtype of bipolar disorder with psychotic features) or schizophrenia because the three mental illnesses can be so similar.

Causes Of Schizoaffective Disorder Bipolar Type

Little is known about what exactly causes schizoaffective disorder bipolar type, but it seems that, like many other mental illnesses, it may result from a combination of genetic, biological, and environmental factors. 

It is believed that genes do play a role in the development of schizoaffective disorder of both types. People who have a history of schizoaffective disorder in their families are typically at higher risk of developing the mental illness themselves. However, exactly what genes are responsible and how that information could be used in treatment or prevention is still unknown.

Do You Think You May Have Schizoaffective Disorder Bipolar Type?

It has become clear to researchers that brain function may be different in people with schizoaffective disorder than in a healthy brain. However, more studies are needed before we can point to a clear answer or solutions.

People who have a predisposition or risk factors for schizoaffective disorder, such as family history, may start experiencing symptoms after stressful life events. Often a stressful life event is what brings the onset of the illness. 

However, while that stressful event is the immediate cause, it is often not the full picture; it may be likely that those who have a predisposal to developing the disorder experience a “trigger” that can jumpstart symptoms. This observation may also help explain why some patients living with SD can experience an uptick in their symptoms after using some drugs or illicit substances, too.

Symptoms of Schizoaffective Disorder Bipolar Type

There are some common symptoms that most people with schizoaffective disorder bipolar type might experience. Patients may not have these symptoms all the time, but they will likely be frequent and concurrent enough that it can make it difficult to function in society.

Hallucinations and delusions are primary symptoms of schizoaffective disorder. Hallucinations are seeing or hearing things that are not there. Delusions are fixed beliefs that can be proven to be false but continue to be held by the patient.

Another major symptom of schizoaffective disorder is disorganized thinking. People with schizoaffective disorder bipolar type may find it very difficult to concentrate or stay on topic. They may quickly switch from one topic to another during conversations, or they may provide answers that are completely unrelated to the topic at hand.

Finally, for schizoaffective disorder bipolar type, periods of mania and depression are more likely to occur than not. During mania, symptoms like racing thoughts, feelings of euphoria, and risky behavior may take precedent. During lows, intense feelings of sadness, disinterest, fatigue, and other symptoms related to depression can become significant.

Treatment of Schizoaffective Disorder Bipolar Type

There are many different treatment options available for schizoaffective disorder bipolar type, but in most cases, a combination of medications and psychotherapy is generally recommended.


There are a wide variety of medications that may be helpful in the treatment of schizoaffective disorder bipolar type. Frequently more than one medication will be prescribed to treat all of the symptoms. Patients may find themselves taking antipsychotics, for instance, to combat the symptoms of schizophrenia as well as a medication that acts as a mood stabilizer.

Some patients do not respond well to medical treatment. It is unknown why some people with schizoaffective disorder bipolar type are resistant to treatment. However, studies have shown that in these situations the medication clozapine has been extremely effective when all other medical treatments fail. Clozapine is an antipsychotic medication that sometimes works better when others fail.


Medication alone is often not enough to treat schizoaffective disorder bipolar type on its own. Psychotherapy can be an extremely key part of treatment. Your therapist may utilize many different types of psychotherapy to help you address your symptoms and pursue your goals, but the most common is cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Whether you’re currently diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder bipolar type or believe you may fit diagnostic criteria for it, speaking with a professional about your thoughts can be highly beneficial. Not only can you find answers to your questions and resources that can help, but you can also receive support and advice that may help you learn to navigate your symptoms in the long run.

It can be especially convenient to attend sessions through online therapy; all you need to connect with someone who understands your needs is an internet connection. There’s no need to be limited by the options available to you locally.

Research has demonstrated that online therapy isn’t a less valuable treatment option than traditional counseling, too. In fact, one recent literature review of several studies analyzing the efficacy of online cognitive behavioral therapy found it could effectively treat a variety of mental health disorders, including PTSD, anxiety, depression, panic disorder, and more. 


Schizoaffective disorder bipolar type is a mental health disorder that typically involves symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Though it may overlap with other diagnoses, this disorder is unique and distinct in terms of the ways it can affect daily life. That’s why pursuing professional treatment can be so important, especially if you’re unsure about how to categorize your experiences. 

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