Dual Diagnosis: Schizoaffective Disorder And Alcohol Addiction
A person who suffers from schizoaffective disorder experiences a combination of schizophrenia symptoms and major mood disorder symptoms. People suffering from the schizoaffective disorder may also be at risk of alcohol addiction. The coexisting occurrence of both substance use disorder and mental disorder is known as a dual diagnosis.
The chance of a person with alcohol addiction developing a dual diagnosis is always possible. According to the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, out of the 20.2 million adults with a substance use disorder, 7.9 million had a co-occurring mental disorder.
Alcohol addiction (alcoholism) is a type of alcohol use disorder. Alcohol addiction is defined as a chronic illness, characterized by a person’s obsession and compulsion to drink alcohol, as well as their inability to stop drinking it, despite the negative effect it has on their life.
When an individual has both an alcohol use disorder and schizoaffective disorder, the coexistence is referred to as a co-occurring disorder, dual diagnosis, or comorbidity. With a dual diagnosis, the symptoms of each disorder often trigger symptoms of the other and may create a cycle of behavior that is not considered healthy, or consistent to a person’s character.
An individual might use alcohol in an attempt to reverse feelings of depression, or because they believe it will help them be more assertive in public situations. Using alcohol to cope with a mental illness puts some people at greater risk of developing alcohol dependence.
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Some people may attach a stigma to drug and alcohol abuse, but when a person is suffering from alcohol addiction or mental illness, they need help. Even though initial alcohol use may have been a conscious decision, most people don’t develop an addiction to alcohol on purpose.
Understanding Schizoaffective Disorder
Schizoaffective disorder is a major psychiatric disorder in which an individual experiences a combination of schizophrenic symptoms, and mood disorder symptoms. Schizophrenia symptoms may include psychosis, delusions, or hallucinations. Symptoms of mood disorders may include depression, mania, or panic.
Schizoaffective disorder is a somewhat rare, but treatable condition. An estimated one in every 200 people develops the schizoaffective disorder at some point in his or her life. People who suffer from this disorder may be affected in all aspects of daily living, including work, social relationships, and self-care skills.
Many people begin to show signs of schizoaffective disorder in their late teens and early adulthood. Some people may be more at risk of developing this disorder due to certain environmental and genetic factors. For instance, if a person has a parent who suffers from schizoaffective disorder, that person may be more likely to develop the disorder.
Taking mind-altering and psychoactive drugs may also contribute to schizoaffective disorder.
Schizoaffective disorder may vary from one person to another. This disorder is not as well-studied, or as well-defined, as other mental health conditions like depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Some of the most common symptoms of schizoaffective disorder are:
- depression, sadness, or hopelessness
- hallucinations: seeing or hearing things that are not there
- delusions: having false beliefs despite evidence proving the contrary
- paranoia: thinking someone is trying to harm you
- disorganized speech that is not logical
- speaking so quickly that others cannot interrupt/understand you
- impaired academic, occupational, and social functioning
- social isolation
- lack of concern with hygiene or grooming
- a mood that is either too good, depressed, or irritable
- problems sleeping
- changes in appetite and energy
- problems with concentration
There are two types of schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type, and depressive type, and both include symptoms of schizophrenia.
A person suffering from bipolar type schizoaffective disorder experiences episodes of mania, and sometimes severe depression.
A person suffering from depressive type schizoaffective disorder experiences major depressive episodes.
The complications of schizoaffective disorder are similar to those of schizophrenia and mood disorders. Some of the common factors that may contribute to the schizoaffective disorder are:
- genetic—does a parent/relative have it?
- biochemical factors
- stress—one of the most underestimated contributors to mental illness
- alcohol and drug abuse
Schizoaffective disorder can only be diagnosed by conducting a clinical interview. The purpose of this interview is to determine whether a person experiences the symptoms of the disorder. Schizoaffective disorder may be less likely to occur than other major mood disorders like depression or anxiety, yet this disorder can still occur.
Can Alcohol Cause Schizoaffective Disorder?
Consuming a large amount of alcohol is known to cause a person to become depressed, anxious, or even manic. Alcohol acts on the neurotransmitters in the brain that are responsible for controlling emotions, so it can be difficult to determine whether alcohol is directly responsible for a schizoaffective disorder.
Schizoaffective disorder can be difficult to diagnose or treat when alcohol abuse is involved. When a person drinks to the point of blacking out, they often exhibit a number of different signs of bipolar, depression, schizophrenia, or anxiety disorders.
Unfortunately, people with schizoaffective disorder are prone to alcohol or drug abuse. Many people with psychiatric disorders use alcohol in an attempt to mask their disturbing symptoms.
Alcohol can contribute to the symptoms of schizoaffective disorder, and may have psychotic effects of its own. This condition is referred to as alcohol-related psychosis and may result from a variety of different reasons, which include:
- the long-term brain effects of alcoholism
- the presence of a vitamin B1 (thiamine) deficiency
- the presence of alcoholism in combination with a mental health condition capable of producing psychosis
- the brain’s response to early- or late-stage alcohol withdrawal
- the coexistence of other forms of substance abuse
- lack of adequate mental health resources for a heavy drinker
Alcohol-related psychosis includes hallucinations and delusional behaviors and may arise during an acute-alcohol intoxication, or during withdrawal symptoms.
Alcohol hallucinations and paranoia generally occur in individuals with acute alcoholism who have been drinking heavily for several years. The withdrawal symptoms that can occur with acute alcoholism can mimic the behaviors and symptoms of certain psychiatric disorders.
Schizoaffective Disorder And Alcohol Treatment
Treating schizoaffective disorder isn’t always easy because it is commonly misdiagnosed for bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Treatment methods may be borrowed from these disorders. With the help of health professionals, patients are able to pinpoint their stressors and triggers, form healthy relationships, get into a healthy routine, and stay away from drugs and alcohol.
Typically, people suffering from schizoaffective disorder are treated with antipsychotic medications and some forms of psychosocial intervention. Alcohol addiction is considered a chronic relapse disease, which means that treatment should be ongoing.
With a dual diagnosis, both disorders should be treated at the same time, as alcohol may have been contributing to schizoaffective disorder, or vice versa. Properly treating both disorders can make long-term sobriety easier to manage.