Schizoaffective disorder is a psychiatric diagnosis that describes a mental disorder characterized by recurring episodes of elevated or depressed mood, or of simultaneously elevated and depressed mood, that alternate with, or occur together with, distortions in perception.
Schizoaffective disorder most commonly affects cognition and emotion. Auditory hallucinations, paranoia, bizarre delusions, or disorganized speech and thinking with significant social and occupational dysfunction are typical. The division into depressive and bipolar types is based on whether the individual has ever had a manic, hypomanic or mixed episode. Symptoms usually begin in early adulthood, which makes diagnosis prior to age 13 rare.
Schizoaffective disorder belongs to the “schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders” proposed by the DSM-5 Workgroup, which includes schizophrenia, schizotypal personality disorder, schizophreniform disorder, brief psychotic disorder, delusional disorder, substance-induced psychotic disorder, both psychotic and catatonic disorders associated with a general medical condition, both unspecified psychotic and catatonic disorders and other unspecified psychotic disorder. This spectrum of psychotic disorders is comparable to the bipolar spectrum in bipolar disorder. Each named disorder on this continuum shares symptoms with the others, and some professionals (including the working group for the DSM-5) contend that the boundaries are so unclear that separate labels are not necessarily warranted.