Do people with schizoaffective disorder have empathy?

Samir Kadri
Author: Samir Kadri Medical Reviewer: Morgan Blair Last updated:

Schizoaffective disorder can affect a person’s ability to relate to others due to social, psychological, and emotional symptoms.

Schizoaffective disorder can be a chronic and debilitating mental health condition, and while close relationships can be a source of support and stability, they may also be challenging to cultivate.

On one hand, relationships can provide laughter, succor, and confidence, grounding a person within a network of understanding people. On the other, they can feel anxiety-inducing, causing the sufferer to isolate themselves.

However, with external support and treatment, it is possible to minimize the negative impacts schizoaffective disorder has on relationships.

Do schizoaffective patients have empathy?

Schizoaffective disorder presents challenges due to the psychotic and mood disorder symptoms experienced by sufferers. While not completely diminished, they may find it harder to understand and share the feelings of others.

Studies show that people with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder and bipolar disorder, even at the time of remission, showed lower empathy levels than healthy subjects. This may be due to a sufferer’s mental state being impacted by hallucinations and a warped sense of reality, leaving them to feel unsettled and imbalanced.

These symptoms can feel emotionally distressing and destabilizing. [1] However, with awareness, early intervention, and dedicated treatment, people with schizoaffective disorder can empathize with others and form valuable relationships.

Each person’s experience with schizoaffective disorder is unique, and the severity of symptoms can vary. Some individuals may find it more challenging to express or communicate their empathy due to difficulties with social functioning or emotional regulation, but it doesn’t mean they are incapable of feeling or understanding empathy.

Relationships challenges faced by a person with schizoaffective disorder

Living with schizoaffective disorder can make forming and maintaining relationships overwhelming. Below is a list of challenges faced by a sufferer regarding relationships:

  1. Communication difficulties: Schizoaffective disorder can affect a person’s ability to express themselves clearly or coherently. Communication may be impaired during periods of psychosis or mood episodes, making it challenging for others to understand their thoughts and emotions.
  2. Social withdrawal and isolation: People with schizoaffective disorder may experience social withdrawal because of their symptoms or a desire to avoid potential triggers or stressors. This can lead to feelings of isolation and difficulties in maintaining relationships.
  3. Emotional instability: Mood episodes in schizoaffective disorder, such as manic or depressive episodes, can lead to emotional instability. Rapid mood swings, intense emotions, or difficulty regulating emotions can impact the dynamics of relationships and cause strain on both the individual with schizoaffective disorder and their loved ones.
  4. Trust and suspicion issues: Paranoid thoughts and delusions can be a part of schizoaffective disorder, leading to issues with trust and suspicion. These symptoms may cause the person with schizoaffective disorder to doubt the intentions or loyalty of their loved ones, straining trust within their relationships.
  5. Impact on everyday life: Schizoaffective disorder can affect an individual’s ability to carry out daily activities, including maintaining household responsibilities, employment, or engaging in social activities. This can place added stress on relationships and require understanding and support from partners, family members, and friends.
  6. Caregiver strain: Family members or partners who are primary caregivers for someone with schizoaffective disorder may experience their own challenges. The constant caregiving responsibilities, managing crises, and supporting their loved one’s treatment can lead to caregiver burnout and strain on the relationship.
  7. Relapse: Someone with schizoaffective disorder can experience prolonged periods of remission, especially if they have an effective treatment plan in place. However, relapse is always a possibility, so any close friend, partner, or family member should be aware of how to handle themselves if a sufferer’s symptoms flare up.

Tips for dating someone with schizoaffective disorder

Dating someone with schizoaffective disorder requires understanding, patience, and open communication. Here are some tips to help navigate a relationship with someone who has schizoaffective disorder:

  1. Open Communication: Foster an environment in which you and your partner consistently communicate as openly and honestly as possible. Listen to their feelings, thoughts,and concerns and try to respond with patience and without judgement.
  2. Learn about their condition: Take time to educate yourself about schizoaffective disorder. Understanding their symptoms and treatment options helps you empathize with the impact of schizoaffective disorder on your partner’s life. This can make you a valuable resource and source of support.
  3. Support their treatment plan: Your partner’s treatment plan is their best way of minimizing the disruptive impact of schizoaffective disorder on their life. Whether it’s medication, therapy, some other form of support service,or a combination of any of the above, encourage them to stick to their treatment plan.
  4. Respect boundaries: Understand and respect your partner’s boundaries. They may need alone time or have specific triggers that can exacerbate their symptoms. Work together to establish healthy boundaries that promote their well-being.
  5. Encourage self-care: Help your partner prioritize self-care activities that promote their mental and emotional well-being. This may include encouraging healthy lifestyle choices, engaging in stress-reducing activities together, or supporting them in seeking additional support when needed.
  1. Dehelean, L., Romosan, A. M., Bucatos, B. O., Papava, I., Balint, R., Bortun, A. M. C., Toma, M. M., Bungau, S., & Romosan, R. S. (2021). Social and Neurocognitive Deficits in Remitted Patients with Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective and Bipolar Disorder. Healthcare, 9(4), 365.
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Samir Kadri
Author Samir Kadri Writer

Samir Kadri is a medical writer with a non-profit sector background, committed to raising awareness about mental health.

Published: Jul 31st 2023, Last edited: Sep 22nd 2023

Morgan Blair
Medical Reviewer Morgan Blair MA, LPCC

Morgan Blair is a licensed therapist, writer and medical reviewer, holding a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling from Northwestern University.

Content reviewed by a medical professional. Last reviewed: Jul 31st 2023