Schizoaffective Disorder and Alcohol: Why Drinking and Psychosis Don’t Mix

Schizoaffective disorder and alcohol do not mix. Alcohol can dangerously aggravate schizoaffective disorder symptoms and derail a person’s recovery. Dual-diagnosis treatment for schizoaffective disorder and alcohol addiction paves the way for real healing in a supportive environment.

Schizoaffective Disorder and Alcohol


Schizoaffective disorder is destabilizing enough as it is. Someone with this psychotic disorder goes through a challenging combination of depression and other mood symptoms and psychotic symptoms too. Coping with the distress and uncertainty of schizoaffective symptoms is challenging. Sometimes a person will turn to alcohol or other substances as a way to cope. But, while it might seem like a good idea at the time, schizoaffective disorder and alcohol do not play well together.

When schizoaffective disorder and alcohol use disorder occur together, a dual-diagnosis treatment program is necessary to approach these distinct but interrelated problems simultaneously. With the right support, it is possible to develop positive and effective coping strategies that enable a peaceful and fulfilling life with schizoaffective disorder.

How Does Alcohol Affect Psychosis and Other Symptoms?


Improvement for psychosis and mood symptoms comes from clarifying a person’s perspective and coping strategies through psychotherapy, medication, life skills training, and holistic practices. Alcohol brings the opposite effect by muddling and dulling a person’s consciousness and interacting negatively with their treatments for schizoaffective disorder.

Alcohol is a depressant with particularly harsh depressive side effects once the intoxication fades. Alcohol can even provoke anxiety and manic symptoms. It might work to numb your thoughts and feelings for the time being, but it will not improve your disordered mood. If anything, it will weigh you and your depression down even more in the long run. And, understandably, once the alcohol wears off and your depression worsens, you may be strongly tempted to drink again—especially without an alternative way to cope at hand.

In addition to serious mood symptoms, someone with schizoaffective disorder also struggles with psychosis akin to schizophrenia. When alcohol abuse is involved, it can induce and/or worsen psychotic episodes. When delusions, hallucinations, and paranoia increase, the risk of harm to others or to oneself—including suicide—increases as well. Unless intervention happens early, the emotional and psychological damage could reach a point of no return even with treatment.

Self-medicating with alcohol in an intentional way can easily turn into a habit—and then into alcohol abuse and dependence. Once alcohol addiction sets in, you are under the power of the substance. And the management of your schizoaffective disorder symptoms is even more out of hand with this dangerous antagonist of addiction in the driver’s seat.

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What Does Treatment Look Like for Schizoaffective Disorder and Alcohol Abuse?


Even without the complications of alcohol abuse and addiction, schizoaffective disorder will not improve without treatment. When this psychotic disorder and a substance use disorder are co-occurring, there are dual-diagnosis treatment programs. Clinicians who oversee these programs and work closely with clients understand how complicated a relationship mental illness and substance abuse can have. But they also know from experience what are the treatment methods that truly work to get someone back on their feet, living an empowered life.

A critical step toward recovery is an accurate diagnosis to determine the roots of a person’s psychosis, their mood patterns, the depth of their substance use disorder, and the best treatment path. Someone with schizoaffective disorder will likely require a personalized combination of medications—including antipsychotics and mood stabilizers or antidepressants—and dedicated therapy—including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and family therapy. But they may also need a safe, medically supervised detox program and proactive support for their serious alcohol use disorder.

Why Should Psychotic Disorders and Substance Use Disorders Be Treated Together?

As effective as schizoaffective disorder treatments may be, they become ineffective without sustained treatment adherence. Alcohol use can make treatment adherence less likely and symptoms more dangerous. That is largely why dual-diagnosis programs are so important: They empower individuals to weather the challenges of addiction as well as their psychotic disorder. The coping skills necessary for someone with a co-occurring substance use disorder are more extensive.

Residential treatment centers are ideal for this level of comprehensive care. Especially for someone suffering psychotic episodes, it is critically important for them to be able to feel secure and to develop productive therapeutic alliances. It can take time for clients to feel trusting, engaged, and motivated. But, in a long-term treatment setting, that time is available. They can gradually embody the life skills and the confidence necessary to live an empowered life beyond their treatment program. With the right support, they can navigate the challenges of both schizoaffective disorder and alcohol addiction in the long term.


BrightQuest offers long-term treatment for people struggling with schizoaffective disorder and alcohol abuse, as well as other complex mental health issues. Contact us to learn more about our renowned program and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward recovery.