Schizoaffective Disorder Medications: Types, Side Effects
Medications for schizoaffective disorder are a vital part of treatment. The right medication can reduce schizoaffective disorder symptoms to make someone more comfortable in the moment. It can also increase someone’s level of functioning, which in turn increases quality of life. Schizoaffective disorder medications can lead to better outcomes for people living with this illness.
Schizoaffective disorder is a psychotic disorder with features of a mood disorder. Accordingly, doctors frequently prescribe a combination of medications that target both psychosis and mood.
Schizoaffective disorder medications include three classes of drugs: atypical antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, and antidepressants.
Schizoaffective Disorder Medications: Atypical Antipsychotics
Atypical antipsychotics work within the circuitry of the brain to improve things like perception (hallucinations, delusions) and cognitive functions (disorganized thinking). Atypical antipsychotics (also simply called antipsychotics) are used no matter what type of schizoaffective disorder someone has.
The only medication specifically for schizoaffective disorder approved by the FDA is paliperidone (Invega), although other atypical antipsychotics are prescribed, too, to target all the psychotic symptoms of the disorder (Mayo Clinic).
The following antipsychotics are often prescribed to people living with schizoaffective disorder (brand names are in parentheses):
- Aripiprazole (Abilify)
- Asenapine (Saphis)
- Cariprazine (Vraylar)
- Clozapine (Clozaril, Fazaclo)
- Haloperidol (Haldol)
- Iloperidonoe (Fanapt)
- Lurasidone (Latuda)
- Olanzapine (Zyprexa)
- Paliperidone (Invega, Invega Sustenna)
- Quetiapine (Seroquel)
- Risperidone (Risperdal, Risperdal Consta)
- Ziprasidone (Geodon)
While antipsychotic medications are effective, they usually can’t stand alone. Other schizoaffective disorder drugs are necessary to treat the mood aspects of the illness.
Schizoaffective Disorder Medications: Mood Stabilizers
Medications for schizoaffective disorder bipolar type include both antipsychotics and mood stabilizers. Mood stabilizers are particularly effective to calm the manic symptoms of schizoaffective disorder.
Sometimes, doctors prescribe anticonvulsants for mania because they work like mood stabilizers. In the below list, lithium is a mood stabilizer, while the other three are anticonvulsants.
- Lithobid (Lithium)
- Carbamazepine (Tegretol, Carbatrol, Epitol, Equetro)
- Oxcarbazepine (Trileptal, Oxtellar XR)
- Valproic Acid (Depakote, Depakene, Depacon, Stavzor)
Schizoaffective Disorder Medications: Antidepressants
When someone has been diagnosed with the depressive type of schizoaffective disorder, her doctor will likely prescribe antipsychotics and antidepressants.
The most common class of antidepressants used in treating schizoaffective disorder is the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These include:
- Citalopram (Celexa)
- Escitalopram (Lexapro)
- Fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem)
- Fluvoxamine (Lovox)
- Parixetine (Paxil, Pexeva)
- Sertraline (Zoloft)
Less commonly prescribed but effective in treating the depressive symptoms of schizoaffective disorder are the serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). Among them:
- Venlafaxine (Effexor, Effexor XR)
- Duloxetine (Cymbalta, DermacinRX DPN Pak, Irenka)
Finally, to treat depression, doctors sometimes prescribe an aminoketone medication that works differently than the SSRIs and SNRIs:
- Bupropion (Wellbutrin, Wellbutrin XL)
Medication is the best treatment for schizoaffective disorder. Unfortunately, though, medication can come with side effects.
Schizoaffective Disorder Medications: Side Effects
The following lists delineate the major side effects of the medications for schizoaffective disorder. Not every medication within a drug class has the exact same side effects. Further, the same medication doesn’t carry identical side effects for everyone who takes it. These are general lists of side effects within each category and can act as a tool for discussion with your doctor or pharmacist.
Antipsychotic side effects:
- Blurred vision
- Dry mouth
- Menstrual problems
- Muscle spasms or tremors
- Rapid heartbeat
- Weight gain (42% of people taking antipsychotics are overweight or obese, leading to other health problems; World of Psychiatry)
Antipsychotic side effects that are rare but serious/dangerous
- Diabetes (Type 2)
- Heart problems (ventricular arrhythmia, myocarditis)
- High cholesterol
- Tardive Dyskinesia and other drug-induced movement disorders known as extrapyramidal side effects (these involve involuntary, random, uncontrollable muscle movement (in tardive dyskinesia, these movements involve the face, tongue, and jaw), tremors, ringer tapping, rocking, etc.)
Mood stabilizer side effects:
- Excessive thirst
- Frequent urination
- Heartbeat issues (fast, slow, irregular, pounding)
- Slurred speech
- Tremors in hands
- Vision changes
Mood stabilizer side effects that are rare but serious/dangerous
- Kidney problems
- Thyroid problems
Antidepressant side effects:
- Panic attacks
- Sleep problems
- Sexual problems
Antidepressant side effects that are rare but serious/dangerous
- Acting on dangerous impulses
- Increased depression
- Serotonin syndrome (life-threatening illness involving fever, blood pressure changes, agitation, hallucinations)
- Suicidal thoughts and/or attempts
Can Schizoaffective Disorder be Treated without Medication?
Schizoaffective disorder medication side effects lists can be intimidating and alarming. Many people wonder if conditions like schizoaffective disorder can be treated without medication.
There are indeed treatments for this disorder that don’t involve medication; however, they usually won’t work until someone is steadied with medication. Medication is needed to stabilize the brain in this brain-based illness.
Schizoaffective disorder medications help increase quality of life, and that often outweighs the side effects. Ultimately, though, whether to take medication is a personal choice that is best made in consultation with your doctor.
Last Updated: 26 October 2018
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD