Teen Schizoaffective Disorder Treatment

Teen Schizoaffective Disorder is an often chronic, long-term mental illness often considered similar to Schizophrenia. Schizoaffective Disorder causes symptoms like intense mood swings, depression, manic behavior, delusions, hallucinations, and psychosis.

What Does Teen Schizoaffective Disorder Look Like?

  • Teens who are suffering from Schizoaffective Disorder often experience psychosis. Psychosis is a severe mental disorder that often causes the patient to break from reality, experiencing hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia.
  • Mood is often disturbed significantly in Schizoaffective Disorder patients, swinging from extreme depression to intense mania. Strange behaviors, such as moods switching rapidly in just a few moments, are also common.

Signs of a Teen Schizoaffective Disorder

Apathy or lack of interest in old hobbies

Apathy or lack of interest in old hobbies

Feeling emotionally “numb” or distant

Feeling emotionally “numb” or distant

Changes in eating habits (e.g., low appetite)

Changes in eating habits (e.g., low appetite)

Strange speech patterns or incoherence

Strange speech patterns or incoherence

Intense, irrational paranoia about situations

Intense, irrational paranoia about situations

Extreme irritability, anger, or even aggression

Extreme irritability, anger, or even aggression

What Kinds of Schizoaffective Disorder Exist?

Bipolar Subtype - The Bipolar subtype of Schizoaffective Disorder in teens causes symptoms very similar to Bipolar Disorder itself. This includes intense, pattern-like mood swings ranging from extreme depression to extreme mania. Cycles often last weeks or months.

Depressive Subtype - The Depressive subtype of Schizoaffective Disorder mostly includes intense symptoms of depression. Teen sufferers may feel fatigued or even exhausted, numb, apathetic, despairing, irritable, or even angry.

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Teen Schizoaffective Disorder Treatment | Paradigm San Francisco

What Are The Causes Of Teen Schizoaffective Disorder?

Many factors contribute to the development of teen Schizoaffective Disorder. The strongest possible predictor currently known is genetics; teens who have a family member with this or some other mental health concern are more likely to develop the disorder themselves. Other factors that influence the development of teen Schizoaffective Disorder include:

Drug Use or Abuse – Substance abuse may raise your teen’s risk for developing Schizoaffective Disorder. Although it isn’t well-understood why some teens seem to be negatively affected more than others, nearly all intoxicating drugs seem to raise the risk for mental health issues in teens. This includes methamphetamine, ketamine, MDMA (ecstasy), cocaine, alcohol, and marijuana. Psychosis may occur after as little as just one experimental use in sensitive teens.

Childhood Trauma – Teens who experience trauma, childhood abuse, or extreme levels of stress and/or abandonment early in life have a statistically higher risk of developing mental health disorders later in life. This includes teen Schizoaffective Disorder. In some cases, even a single extremely traumatic event, such as a sexual assault or active shooter experience, may be enough to trigger the development of psychosis.

History of Mental Illness – Teens who are already diagnosed with other comorbid mental health disorders, such as Depression and Anxiety, also have a greater risk for teen Schizoaffective Disorder. The risk increases exponentially if the previously diagnosed disorder includes psychosis (such as in Brief Psychotic Disorder).


of Americans have Schizoaffective Disorder.


American youth experience psychosis each year.


increased risk of suicide for patients who experience psychosis.

How Can I Help My Teen with a Schizoaffective Disorder?

Provide Support at Home – Having a supportive, understanding home environment is imperative for teens with Schizoaffective Disorder. Talk to your teen often and remind them that it’s “okay to not be okay,” and that they can tell you if they’re struggling with symptoms. Help them create a consistent schedule for treatment, medications, activities, and therapy appointments, as well as recreation, so they know what to expect and when.

If you find yourself feeling frustrated, remember that Schizoaffective Disorder may cause teens to experience hallucinations, and delusions; their symptoms are a product of the disorder, not simply “bad behavior.” It may be helpful to reach out to a private therapist who can provide you with guidance and communication techniques to help your teen.

Watch Out for Triggers – Teens who struggle with Schizoaffective Disorder often have “triggers” – situations, objects, or people who “trigger” delusions and/or hallucinations during psychotic episodes. These triggers may simply be stressful scenarios, or they may be a specific item associated with past trauma. Help your teen recognize and avoid these triggers by creating a static schedule they can follow each day. Encourage participation in activities that improve self-worth and self-esteem, including creative arts, music, group therapy, and anything else safe, useful, and beneficial for reducing stress and improving personal growth.

Learn About Teen Schizoaffective Disorder – It’s easy to feel frustrated by behaviors associated with teen Schizoaffective Disorder, especially if you don’t understand the disorder yourself. Learn as much as you can about the disorder from reliable sources.

Talk to your teen about how they experience Schizoaffective Disorder, including how they feel about their symptoms. If you don’t have any history of mental illness yourself, you may find what they share frightening, confusing, or even irrational; remember that this is a product of the disorder, not an inherent part of their personality.

What Types of Teen Schizoaffective Disorder Treatment Are Available?

Treating teen Schizoaffective Disorder is rarely straightforward or as simple as just taking a pill and moving on. Research shows that a combination of medical intervention, medication, and psychotherapy is the best option for controlling episodes.

Talk Therapy

Talk therapy (also known as psychotherapy) helps teens understand their experiences and how to cope with the symptoms of their disorder. For teens with Schizoaffective Disorder, therapists often turn to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) strategies first. Both approaches focus on helping teens learn to recognize their hallucinations and delusions for what they are so that they can cope with them more effectively in day-to-day life. Therapy also helps teens address feelings like depression, mania, anxiety, irritability, low self-worth, and low self-esteem.

Group Therapy

In group therapy, teens work in a relatively small group led by a therapist or counselor who provides guidance on topics or approaches. The social dynamic of group therapy can be especially helpful for teens with Schizoaffective Disorder who are socially awkward or lacking in social skills, but it also reminds teens they aren’t alone. Spending time with other sufferers who may uniquely understand the experience of psychosis and how confusing it can be can be very helpful for teens. By working together in a group, teens also learn to view their own illness objectively while also learning that they deserve compassion, too.

Family Therapy

Family therapy can be very helpful for families who want to create a supportive home environment and learn to better communicate with teens who have Schizoaffective Disorder. It is similar to group therapy, yet sessions are limited to only the teen and their family members for a more private, focused experience. Therapists aid families in learning how to regain trust, communicate their thoughts and feelings, and work together to create a healthy living environment at home.


Medical providers sometimes prescribe medication to teens with Schizoaffective Disorder, especially when symptoms of psychosis become overwhelming. Often, this is the only way to reduce hallucinations and delusions to a manageable level, bringing teens to a point of stability where they can focus on and engage in therapy. Medication may be used to reduce other associated symptoms, including anger, aggression, mood swings, and suicidal ideation, that may be life-threatening if they become severe.

Teen Schizoaffective Disorder Treatment at Paradigm San Francisco

Paradigm San Francisco is a safe place for teens with Schizoaffective Disorder to come to when symptoms begin to interfere with everyday life. Unlike hospitals or larger mental health facilities, Paradigm isn’t an institution; it’s a smaller, more intimate place nestled into a beautiful environmental paradise in northern San Francisco. Teens who stay here with us at Paradigm are given the unique opportunity to focus on wellness, healing, and personal growth without the usual distractions of home, social, and academic pressures.

Paradigm’s programs are structured to suit the needs of the individual, and include therapy sessions, group activities, social time with peers, classroom-style learning sessions, and simple relaxation time on our beautiful property. We see our role as one of assistance and guidance, giving teens the skills and support they need to achieve holistic wellness.

A Safe Place

At Paradigm, we know teens who suffer from Schizoaffective Disorder often struggle with intense paranoia, hallucinations, and delusions. These experiences can potentially endanger the teen’s life, especially if they lead to suicidal ideation or risky behaviors. However, they must be dealt with in the right way to prevent triggering further psychosis. Paradigm’s staff are trained to respond to and effectively manage difficult or challenging situations and behaviors like self-harm, self-destructiveness, aggression, and unnecessary risk-taking.

The Benefits of Nature

Sometimes, what teens need most is just a safe, healing escape where they can de-escalate and take a second to just “be” in nature. Just behind Paradigm’s main building is a beautifully wide expanse of land dotted by trees that provide the perfect place for sitting in quiet contemplation, drawing, or chatting with peers – or even having fun. Fresh air, frequently scheduled outdoor activities, and encouragement from staff to spend time outside helps teens learn how to use time spent in nature to relieve anxiety, depression, and other symptoms.

“ The love I have for each and every member of the Paradigm Malibu staff is too great to express. Their knowledge, compassion and love for my son has made all the difference. Highly recommend. “

– Tommy

Frequently Asked Questions About Teen Schizoaffective Disorder

What’s the Difference Between Bipolar Disorder and Bipolar Subtype?

Although Bipolar Disorder and the Bipolar Subtype of Schizoaffective Disorder may have similar names, they are not the same thing. Bipolar Disorder is a concrete, individual illness which predominantly features intense, cyclic mood swings between Depression and manic behavior.

Schizoaffective Disorder, on the other hand, causes intense episodes of psychosis, often including hallucinations and psychosis. The Bipolar Subtype of this disorder causes teens to experience moods swings on top of psychosis, not as a the predominant feature associated with the disease.

How Many Americans Experience Schizoaffective Disorder?

It is difficult to know exactly how many Americans experience Schizoaffective Disorder. Most statistics show that around 0.3 percent to 0.5 percent of the population will be diagnosed with schizoaffective symptoms at least once during their lives. Some studies show a much higher incidence, suggesting that up to 1.1 percent of the population is affected. These statistics seem to be relatively unaffected by gender.

Can Schizoaffective Disorder Be Cured?

There is no cure for teen Schizoaffective Disorder, but treatment with medication and therapy can be remarkably effective. The good news is that teens are extremely adaptable; with early enough intervention, must go on to live fulfilling, happy lives. As with most mental health conditions, consistent, long-term treatment is a must; the longer teens adhere to their treatment program, the less likely they will be to re-experience episodes in the future.

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