10 Ways to Manage Schizoaffective Disorder
The symptoms of schizoaffective disorder can mimic those of other disorders, which often leads to an incorrect diagnosis. Getting a proper diagnosis is vital so the disorder can be treated safely and effectively. However, treatment for schizoaffective disorder is only the beginning of recovery. The best way to stay on track to lasting wellness is to make lifestyle choices that support personal growth and long-term health. With an informed approach, schizoaffective disorder can be successfully managed.
Being diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder can set off a torrent of emotions, ranging from fear and anxiety to a sense of relief that the condition has been successfully identified.
A mental health diagnosis of any type can be difficult to accept, for families as well as for the person directly affected. But once you get treatment, a positive and sustainable outcome is not only possible but likely, if you manage your schizoaffective disorder symptoms carefully and eliminate stressors in your environment that might trigger a relapse.
Getting an Accurate Diagnosis: The First Step of Effective Treatment
Schizoaffective disorder shows significant overlap with other conditions. For example, it causes mood swings that can manifest as depression or mania, possibly both in an alternating pattern. Sometimes deep depression is the only mood change observed, causing psychiatrists to misdiagnose the condition as major depression.
Psychotic symptoms including delusions and/or hallucinations are also experienced with schizoaffective disorder. This can lead to a diagnosis of either schizophrenia or major depression with psychotic features. Since bipolar disorder can in some instances produce psychotic behavior during manic episodes, schizoaffective disorder is sometimes misclassified under the bipolar category as well.
One unique feature of schizoaffective disorder is that severe mood disturbance and psychotic symptoms are not experienced simultaneously. Instead, psychosis will alternate with depression and/or mania, giving the condition a varying profile. This distinctive pattern allows mental health experts to identify schizoaffective disorder as the cause of the trouble, despite its similarity to other serious mental health disorders.
There are two classifications of schizoaffective disorder, based on the type of mood swings experienced. Those who have depression exclusively will be diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder of the depressive type, while those who experience both depression and mania (or mania alone) will be diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder of the bipolar type.
This is a complex condition regardless of what type is present. Once you have an accurate diagnosis, however, mental health professionals will be able to design a recovery and rehabilitation plan that has great odds of success.
Self-Help and Self-Care Strategies for Schizoaffective Disorder
Schizoaffective disorder is a life-altering condition for all involved. Residential treatment for schizoaffective disorder is the best option for successful long-term healing and management of symptoms, but you’ll have to continue the healing process once you finish treatment and return home to your normal life.
Here are 10 recommendations that can help you and your family manage your schizoaffective disorder and overcome the challenges it creates:
#1 Carefully Monitor Medication Use and Its Effects
Schizoaffective disorder is treated with a combination of antipsychotics and antidepressants, and possibly mood stabilizers if manic episodes are experienced. Because these substances are used to treat specific symptoms, which may wax and wane at different times, medication use for men and women with schizoaffective disorder must be carefully monitored at all times.
Adjustments in dosages and the medications used may be necessary, and it is important when you’re not in residential treatment to pay close attention to how the medications you’re taking are affecting (or not affecting) you. Mental health professionals need accurate reports to make sure medication use continues to be appropriate and safe.
#2 Exercise Regularly and Follow a Nutritious Diet Plan
Exercise and a proper diet are equally beneficial for body, mind, and spirit. A nutritious, well-balanced diet that excludes excessive sugar and fat, and all drugs and alcohol, will help you regulate your moods and keep you focused on preserving your health.
Meanwhile, vigorous physical activity fills the mind with mood-enhancing neurochemicals like dopamine and serotonin, which help people maintain their emotional equilibrium and preserve their mental health.
#3 Avoid Isolation
Loneliness is a breeding ground for depression. Being in the company of loved ones, on the other hand, increases a person’s energy, breeds a sense of optimism, and can even boost immune system functioning.
Naturally, toxic individuals and stressful social interactions should be avoided. But the warm and welcoming company of family and friends can prevent a descent into depression, which is always lurking in the shadows for people who’ve battled depressive states in the past.
#4 Get Plenty of Sleep
Restless or depressed minds tend to struggle with sleep. They often don’t get enough and may fail to maintain a sensible and sustainable sleep schedule. Insufficient sleep can easily trigger anxiety and stress, possibly sending you into a downward spiral where a positive outlook on life can be difficult to preserve.
Your sleeping patterns should be consistent and tailored to suit your personal and professional needs. Good sleep is synonymous with good mental health, and if you develop bad sleeping habits they can be difficult to break.
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#5 Be Honest With Everyone
People with schizoaffective disorder shouldn’t ignore recurrent symptoms, even when they seem to be minor. They should be open and honest with their family about what they’re thinking and experiencing, and they must be even more honest during sessions with their therapists.
New symptoms or changes in the intensity of old ones could be a sign that you need to adjust your medication. They could also mean that stressful situations are compromising your recovery. Either way, you have to talk about what you’re feeling so others can offer support and assistance, whether of a personal or professional nature.
#6 Continue Life Skills Training and Holistic Wellness Practices
Residential mental health recovery programs often include instruction in complementary wellness practices like yoga, meditation, biofeedback, or Tai Chi. Many of these practices can be continued after formal treatment ends, and their ability to help you manage stress, anxiety, and self-doubt could make them valuable additions to your long-term treatment plan.
Many treatment centers also offer training or instruction in life skills or coping skills. They may even provide vocational training or counseling. Once again, these services are valuable and should be continued in some format after treatment ends. Self-development courses can boost your confidence by empowering your efforts to change and heal.
#7 Embrace Positivity and Optimism
Emotions shouldn’t be exclusively reactive. They should be constructive, intentional choices designed to produce life-affirming and life-transforming results. To reinforce your choices, you must seek out pleasurable and uplifting experiences, especially those that involve helping others or sharing good times with the people you love.
Over time, your new positive attitude will become habitual. It will help carry you through challenging circumstances and give you the hope that recovery from schizoaffective disorder is truly possible.
#8 Cooperate With Family to Create a Calm, Safe, and Stable Home Environment
When you’re in treatment for schizoaffective disorder, you need to spend as much time as you can in peaceful environments. Your mental, emotional, and physical health can all be compromised by interpersonal conflict or exposure to stress, and you should avoid anxiety-inducing circumstances whenever possible.
A steady routine can contribute to your overall good health, as long as you remain focused on recovery and healing.
#9 Be an Active Participant in Aftercare
Recovery is a lifelong process, and the situation is especially fraught with risk in the weeks and months immediately after the conclusion of formal treatment. Fortunately, the best mental health rehabilitation centers sponsor aftercare or continuing care programs that include a mixture of individual and group therapy, medication management services, and additional training in life skills or coping skills.
Aftercare should never be neglected or taken lightly. A diligent approach to recovery during aftercare will reinforce the lessons you learned in residential treatment.
#10 Don’t See Your Condition as a Stigma
There is no shame in suffering from mental illness. In fact, when you’re in recovery you should feel proud of your efforts to overcome significant life challenges.
Negative emotions can produce pessimistic mental states. By accepting your mental health diagnosis, and refusing to judge yourself because of it, you’ll be protecting yourself from the erosive impact of guilt, shame, self-doubt, and other self-sabotaging thoughts and emotions. You don’t have to talk about your schizoaffective disorder constantly, but there’s no reason to avoid the subject when you’re with people who care about you and want to help.
Treatment and Your Life Beyond Schizoaffective Disorder
Self-help and self-care is an essential part of anyone’s recovery from serious mental illness. But your pursuit of wellness should begin with residential treatment for schizoaffective disorder, where you can receive guidance and appropriate medical services from mental health experts who understand the nature of your difficulties.
Treatment can help you chart a new course in life. If you embrace the possibilities, your time in residential treatment could be the beginning of something very special.
If you’re concerned about a loved one and believe they may need residential care, we can help. BrightQuest offers long-term treatment for people struggling with complex mental illnesses. Contact us to learn more about our renowned program and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward recovery.