Disorganized Thoughts: Difficulty Coping with Schizoaffective Disorder

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Reader’s Question

I have been diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder, Major Depressive Type, and my hallucinations have been significantly reduced purely through psychotherapy (no meds). However, my thoughts and speech are still very much disorganized. Being a student, this becomes an issue not only in class (I cope by recording lectures), but more so in group assignments. I find it tedious to focus because it’s difficult to piece together what my group mates are saying, and after a while I just ‘switch off’ and appear to be distracted. I also find it difficult to comprehend abstract ideas. Often there are so many things on my mind that don’t make complete sense, and it takes a lot of time to ‘untangle the wires’.

The problem is despite being around psychology students it’s difficult for people to understand what it’s really like for me. It’s easier to believe that I’m just ‘lazy’ or ‘easily distracted’. Sometimes my thoughts are fine but my words don’t make sense. At other times I know (at the back of my mind) what I’m thinking about, but I can’t piece them together. I want to know how I can cope with this.

Psychologist’s Reply

Wow! You have done a pretty good job of describing yourself in an organized way here. I am pleased to hear that you have been able to accomplish so much as a result of your participation in psychotherapy. However, it is important for you to know that most professionals would recommend you be at least evaluated (and most likely prescribed psychotropic medication) to treat Schizoaffective disorder. Usually the best treatment for this illness is a combination of therapy and medication.

Individuals with Schizoaffective disorder experience both depressive symptoms (or manic symptoms) and psychotic symptoms. Many consider Schizoaffective disorder to be on a continuum with Schizophrenia. Individuals with this illness can vary in the degree to which it impairs their functioning, although many people with this disorder (especially if it is untreated) find it difficult to function at school and work.

If you are feeling that other people don’t understand what it is like for you to have this diagnosis or you are feeling judged, you may want to discuss this in therapy to find ways to cope. If you are still seeing a therapist, it may help to talk to him/her about these concerns. If you are not in therapy, then now might be a good time to resume. In some cases, you may need to educate others about your condition so they can understand where you are coming from. Even psychology students may need to be educated about your experience. Don’t assume they know how hard it is for you to organize your thoughts. Hopefully, giving information about your condition to other people you trust will help them to better understand and support you.

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