Can My Adult Child With Schizoaffective Disorder Have a Normal Life?
Schizoaffective disorder can cause disabling symptoms, like hallucinations, delusions, depression, and mania. Living with this condition can cause difficulties at school or work, in the home, and in relationships. Untreated, complications may include substance misuse, isolation, physical health problems, an inability to live independently, and suicide. Schizoaffective disorder can be managed, though, and adults diagnosed with it can manage symptoms and live a normal, fulfilled, and independent life.
Schizoaffective disorder is a serious mental illness that causes symptoms of schizophrenia, including hallucinations, delusions, disordered thinking, and unusual behaviors and emotional reactions. It also causes episodes of mania and depression, similar to bipolar disorder. Potential complications include drug use, poor physical health, violence or suicide, poverty, unemployment, and even legal problems.
The symptoms of this condition can be debilitating and cause serious dysfunction, but it can also be managed with good treatment. Your child can most likely live a normal life if he or she is committed to receiving that care for the long-term, and if you and your family can provide positive and ongoing support.
Treatment for Schizoaffective Disorder
The first step in helping your adult child live a normal life is to get an accurate diagnosis. Many people with schizoaffective disorder are first diagnosed with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia and may not get the most effective treatment as a result. Make sure your child gets an updated diagnosis, especially if there are signs of both psychotic symptoms and mood symptoms, including mania and depression.
Once you have the right diagnosis, your child will need to be prepared to accept treatment. A good treatment plan for schizoaffective disorder should be tailored to the individual’s needs, and it may need to include time in a residential setting followed by outpatient care.
Schizoaffective disorder treatment includes two major types of care: medications and therapy. Medications that can help manage symptoms and minimize or prevent mood episodes include antipsychotics, antidepressants, and mood stabilizers. It requires some time and patience to find the right balance of medications that are effective and cause the least amount of side effects.
Therapy is important for treatment as well, because medications cannot cure this illness. Therapy can help your adult child learn to manage symptoms, change negative thoughts and behaviors, and relate better to other people. As a part of treatment, your child may also benefit from life skills training, including learning social and relational skills and job skills. Assistance with finding a job or getting housing can also help with independence.
Diagnosing and Managing Substance Use Disorders
Misusing drugs or alcohol is not uncommon in people living with schizoaffective disorder. Many people use substances as a coping strategy, but it is unhealthy and makes things worse. Any degree of substance misuse can be a big issue that gets in the way of remission and normal functioning, even when the mental illness is being treated and managed. To help your child live a better life, it is important to address any substance use.
A thorough treatment plan implemented at a rehab facility or with outpatient treatment professionals should include an evaluation for substance use disorder. Insist that your son or daughter be evaluated and diagnosed, and that managing substance use is part of the overall treatment plan. If this is ignored, it can undo all the good work done in treatment for schizoaffective disorder.
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The Outlook for Schizoaffective Disorder
The signs of schizoaffective disorder usually begin to be seen between the ages of 16 and 30. Symptoms can be more and less severe over time, and many will have periods with no symptoms alternating with more serious and disabling episodes.
This is considered to be a lifelong, chronic condition with no cure. That means that a recurrence of symptoms or mood episodes is always possible. However, many people experience fewer and less severe symptoms as they get older, especially approaching middle age.
It is important to start treatment for schizoaffective disorder as early as possible. Managing symptoms can help individuals live better lives, be independent, and avoid serious complications and consequences. Eventually, the hard work of treatment as well as the natural course of the illness will lead most people to have fewer symptoms and to live a normal, healthy life.