Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective Disorder Defined
Schizophrenia is a chronic illness involving hallucinations and delusions. People affected with this condition may hear voices that others do not hear, or have visual hallucinations. Delusions often involve paranoid thoughts that people are following them, reading their mind, controlling their thoughts, or trying to harm them. These symptoms are usually very distressing to the patient, and cause social isolation, fear, or bizarre behavior. People with schizophrenia may have episodes of psychosis (hallucinations and/or delusions) and then go into remission for a period of time.
Schizoaffective disorder is a combination of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Schizophrenia does not include mania or depression. In schizoaffective disorder, the person has distinct episodes of psychosis that last for 2 weeks or more, alternating with depressive or manic episodes. The difference between schizoaffective disorder and bipolar disorder is that in bipolar disorder, there are two types of episodes: depressive and manic. In schizoaffective disorder, there can be three types of episodes: depressive, manic, and psychotic. During the psychotic episode, the person’s mood and energy level are mostly normal; the person is not very manic or very depressed at the time. For some people, they only have psychotic episodes alternating depressive episodes, and for other people they only have psychotic episodes alternating with manic episodes.
Epidemiology & Causes
Schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder affect about 1% of the US population, and there is no difference in prevalence between ethnicities. Symptoms of these conditions typically begin between ages 15-30. Men and women are equally affected by schizophrenia. Schizoaffective disorder is slightly more common in women than men.
There is no one cause of psychotic disorders. There are genetic links, with 10% likelihood of developing schizophrenia if a first-degree relative has the condition. There are certain structural and chemical changes in the brain that are associated with psychotic disorders. However, it is unclear whether these changes are a cause of the condition, or a result of the medications used to treat the illness.
Diagnosis & Evaluation
The diagnosis of psychiatric disorders is made based on clinical symptoms and history. There is no physical test to diagnose schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, or bipolar disorder. Tests can be performed to rule out other possible causes of psychosis. It is important to make sure that there is no underlying physical pathology, such as a brain tumor, drug abuse, or a thyroid condition that could cause symptoms of mental illness. Some doctors order neurotransmitter testing or brain scans to attempt to find correlations between symptoms and labs. However, these tests are not diagnostic, and the results are not proven to be helpful in determining an effective treatment protocol, so they should not be considered reliable.
Typical conventional treatment of schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder involves antipsychotic medications, such as Zyprexa, Risperdal, Seroquel, Abilify, Invega, or Geodon. Older medications such as Prolixin, Haldol, and Trilafon are sometimes still used. For schizoaffective disorder, mood stabilizers are usually helpful as well, such as Lithium, Depakote, Lamictal, Tegretol, or other anti-manic drugs.
Unfortunately, psychological counseling is rarely encouraged in the conventional treatment of psychotic conditions. People with schizophrenia can benefit tremendously from understanding more about their condition, and how to cope with the stress that the symptoms cause. Many people with schizophrenia have a history of significant emotional stress or trauma, and their current delusions are metaphorical exaggerations of their past psychological challenges. By discussing this stress, the patient may be able to elucidate underlying causes of their current concerns, and reach a healthier place of stability as a result.
Homeopathic Treatment of Schizophrenia & Schizoaffective Disorder
Homeopathic medicine is a natural method of treatment that can safely and effectively reduce schizophrenia or schizoaffective symptoms by balancing brain chemistry and improving overall health. There are no drug interactions and no side effects of homeopathic remedies. Homeopathic medicines are made from natural sources such as plants or minerals, and are prepared as small sublingual pills. Homeopathic medicine is very affordable, usually costing about $10-20 for a vial of medicine that lasts over a month. Because there are no drug interactions, people taking conventional psychiatric medications can continue these medications while starting homeopathic treatment without problems. Most patients see improvements within a few days to a few weeks of starting treatment. Once improvement is seen, we can initiate a gradual taper of conventional medications as desired, because the homeopathic medicine is actually creating better health and balance, thus requiring less of the conventional drugs.
Other Natural Treatments
In a 2010 study in the Archives of General Psychiatry1, fish oil was shown to be effective for preventing psychotic symptoms in schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. In the study, the effective preventive dose was 1.2 grams of fish oil once daily. Fish oil is also useful in the treatment and reduction of bipolar symptoms, particularly in depressive episodes.2 A research study showed that yoga was effective for improving social and occupational functioning for people with schizophrenia. Maximum improvements were seen after participants practiced yoga for 2 months, and results lasted even months after the people stopped practicing yoga.3
 Long Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acids Indicated in the Prevention of Psychotic Disorders. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2010;67(2):146-154.
 Omega-3 for bipolar disorder: meta-analyses of use in mania and bipolar depression. J Clin Psychiatry. 2011 Aug 9.
 Effect of yoga therapy on facial emotion recognition deficits, symptoms and functioning in patients with schizophrenia. Acta Psych Scand. Volume 123, Issue 2, pages 147–153, Feb 2011.