The Impact of Schizoaffective Disorder Symptoms on Relationships

Disorder Symptoms
Disorder Symptoms

Numbers by the National Alliance on Mental Illness indicate that schizoaffective disorder has a lifetime prevalence rate of about 0.3 percent. Compared to other disorders on the schizophrenic spectrum, schizoaffective disorder has a much lower prevalence rate. Some medical experts attribute this to misdiagnosis, as practitioners may misdiagnose people with schizophrenia or a mood disorder as opposed to schizoaffective disorder. 

Even so, it can significantly affect one’s ability to function and maintain relationships. Because schizoaffective disorder comprises symptoms of both psychosis and a mood disorder, it’s worth looking at how these symptoms affect their relationships. So, let’s look at the positive and negative symptoms of the condition, how they impact relationships, and options to manage symptoms. 

Positive and Negative Symptoms of Schizoaffective Disorder

The terms ‘schizo’ and ‘affective’ refer to the psychotic and mood components of schizoaffective disorder. When you receive a diagnosis, it’s either bipolar type or depressive type schizoaffective disorder. As a result, you experience both psychotic symptoms (positive and negative symptoms) and mood symptoms. 

  • Positive Symptoms: These include the behaviors, thoughts, and perceptions typically absent in someone without the condition. Specifically, it refers to delusions, hallucinations, and disorganized thoughts. 
  • Negative Symptoms: This includes the absence of behaviors, thoughts, and perceptions typically present in someone without the condition. It refers to difficulty experiencing pleasure, inattention, low motivation, and flat affect. 
  • Having bipolar-type schizoaffective disorder means experiencing manic episodes. These are periods when you have a euphoric mood, racing thoughts, an inflated sense of self-esteem, and a reduced need for sleep. 
  • Depressed type schizoaffective disorder is characterized by low mood, diminished interest in pleasurable activities, feelings of hopelessness, and changes in appetite. 

Although these symptoms can have a notable impact on relationships, managing them with appropriate treatment is possible. Dedicated treatment facilities like URP Behavioral Health adopt an integrative approach that combines elements of both evidence-based treatment and holistic therapies. This gives you the right space to work on your social skills and learn effective coping strategies

The Impact of Schizoaffective Disorder Symptoms on Relationships

Here are some of the ways that schizoaffective disorder impacts relationships: 

Difficulty Identifying and Expressing Emotions

Flat affect is a common symptom of schizoaffective disorder and schizophrenia that has a major effect on interpersonal relationships. It refers to the flattening or dampening of emotions, leading to minimal verbal responses, reduced emotional responses, and difficulty perceiving emotions. 

When you can’t give emotional responses to what people say, they may assume that you’re not interested in them. Even if that’s not the case, others can react negatively. In romantic relationships, being unable to identify the other person’s emotions can cause poor communication and a lack of connection.

Inconsistent Mood

Because schizoaffective disorder has a mood component, you may be prone to sudden mood changes, including feelings of anger, irritability, emptiness, and sadness. You may even display inappropriate emotional responses to social situations in some situations. Romantic partners and friends may perceive these symptoms negatively, thinking you’re acting out or being unreasonable. Sudden mood fluctuations can also cause conflicts and breakdowns in communication.  

Withdrawing and Isolating Oneself

When you’re experiencing symptoms like hallucinations, delusions, or catatonic behavior, it’s difficult to participate in activities with friends or a romantic partner. Even if you’re with them, you’re not fully ‘present,’ which can lead to social withdrawal. 

Similarly, being unable to perceive emotion makes it harder to relate with others, just as being unable to express emotion makes it difficult for others to relate to you. In this situation, you may become withdrawn or feel isolated from others. 

Poor Concentration 

Cognitive dysfunction is a core component of schizophrenic disorder. You’ll experience deficits in domains like attention, working memory, and executive function for decision-making. Because of this, it feels like people around you are talking too fast or that your thoughts are racing, making it difficult to focus on conversations and listen actively. 

Poor Communication

It also becomes more difficult to manage coherent conversations. Due to the disorder’s psychotic features, you may struggle to keep track of your thoughts and where the conversation is going. It’s likely that you’ll quickly go from one thought to another, which makes it difficult for others to keep up. 

Keep in mind that people struggling with bipolar-type schizoaffective disorder may have a sudden flight of ideas and rapid speech during a manic episode. This has an effect on your ability to communicate with others as well.  

Doubts and Insecurity

Schizoaffective disorder is characterized by a loss of contact with reality, which makes it easy to develop doubts about your relationship. You may have doubts about their loyalty and whether they’re genuinely interested in you. When not addressed, these doubts can turn into delusions, affecting the quality of your relationships, both romantic and otherwise. 

Unemployment and Resulting Conflicts

At work, difficult psychotic and mood symptoms can affect your relationships with colleagues, clients, and your boss. This makes it challenging to hold a job and experience career growth. In the event of unemployment, your partner may have to deal with extra pressure and responsibility. This puts undue strain on the relationship and can lead to conflicts.  

Substance Abuse

Failing to receive adequate treatment for schizoaffective disorder puts you at risk of developing a co-occurring substance use disorder as well. A lack of professional care and support can cause people to turn to illicit substances to cope with difficult symptoms. Even on its own, substance abuse leads to a long line of complications that negatively affect the relationship. When combined with the psychotic and mood symptoms of schizoaffective disorder, substance misuse contributes to further strain. 


Schizoaffective disorder, which has components of psychosis and mood disturbances, can have a negative impact on your relationships. Symptoms like flat affect, disorganized thoughts, inconsistent mood, and poor concentration make it challenging to build meaningful relationships and maintain them. These symptoms contribute to relationship conflicts, feelings of insecurity, and poor communication. But with the right treatment intervention, it’s possible to not only manage these symptoms but maintain fulfilling relationships with others.  

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