Schizoaffective Disorder Changed My Sense of Style

September 16, 2021 Elizabeth Caudy

I was diagnosed as schizophrenic in 1999 after a psychotic episode at college. My first diagnosis of a serious mental illness markedly changed my sense of fashion, and the changes stuck even with a later reassessment that I was schizoaffective. I have a few ideas as to why.

Why My Style Changed After My Schizoaffective Psychotic Episode

Let me tell you about the way I dressed before my diagnosis of schizophrenia in 1999. I really marched to the beat of my own drummer, but with trendy results. In high school, some people even thought I made my own clothes. I didn’t; but, inspired by the grunge aesthetic and some of my mom’s hippie originals loaded with 1960s nostalgia, I wove together a personal style that sometimes even managed to bring the flower child to goth fashions.

But my psychotic episode forced me to come home from college and face a new life with a debilitating, chronic illness. I just didn’t feel safe anymore, and I didn’t feel fashionable after the medication I took put on lots of pounds. Most of all, I wanted to feel safe in any way that I could. I started dressing for comfort. I swapped my black lace and crushed velvet for corduroy, fleece, and hiking boots.

What made my new fashions feel even more protective was that my mom picked out a lot of them for me. Maybe she felt I wasn’t safe either, so she babied me, though she encouraged my decisions and actions. I gladly let her in those spaces.

Another thing was that, for the first time in my life, I wanted to be normal. Well, at least part of me wanted to be normal. What I mean by “normal” is that I wanted to listen to the music that was playing at the drug store where I worked as a part-time job, I wanted to watch Ally McBeal, and I wanted to wear fleece pull-overs and hiking boots like so many people had started to do.

My Sense of Style Has Evolved with My Schizoaffective Disorder

I feel secure now. This sense of danger at every turn actually only lasted for the first few months of my illness. My fashion sense stayed what I started to call “utilitarian,” though. With the rigorous academics of The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), where I transferred from The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) after my psychotic episode and being saddled with demanding schizoaffective disorder, I really only had time to dress for comfort.

Today, I express myself with jewelry. I love to wear funky, offbeat, artsy pieces from my parents, my husband Tom, my great aunt, and my grandmothers. I also wear t-shirts and pull-overs that advertise things I care about: everything from SAIC to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). I am so far from normal; it’s not even funny. But I love it. As my dear auntie who gave me the jewelry said, I’ve made a very nice life for myself, even if I have schizoaffective disorder and even if my sea glass necklace from this summer’s trip to Door County, Wisconsin, covers up the “S” in my SAIC t-shirt.

APA Reference
Caudy, E. (2021, September 16). Schizoaffective Disorder Changed My Sense of Style, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 15 from

Author: Elizabeth Caudy

Elizabeth Caudy was born in 1979 to a writer and a photographer. She has been writing since she was five years old. She has a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an MFA in photography from Columbia College Chicago. She lives outside Chicago with her husband, Tom. Find Elizabeth on Google+ and on her personal blog.

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