Many myths surround the disorder of schizophrenia. When people don’t truly understand the disorder, it is easy to believe the myths that they hear. Unfortunately, myths can lead to labeling and this is unfair to those who are struggling to cope with their symptoms.
Some myths suggest that people with schizophrenia are dangerous and violent. Other myths suggest that all people with this mental health disorder should be hospitalized. It’s the false statements such as these that make it more difficult for those who are diagnosed with the disorder to fit in with society.
People do not choose to have this mental illness. There is no cure for this disorder but there are many coping tools a person can use to control their symptoms and live a regular life. Medication, structured counseling, and specific training are several ways a person with schizophrenia can learn to maintain a lifestyle that is beneficial to themselves and to society. They can’t do this, however, if they are constantly trying to overcome obstacles they face, especially the ones that myths create.
By gaining knowledge about the different types of schizophrenia and their symptoms, you can help dispel the myths surrounding this complicated disorder and reduce the stigma.
What is it Exactly?
This very serious mental health disorder affects a person’s thoughts, feelings and actions. There are five types:
- Paranoid schizophrenia – Largely characterized by hallucinations and delusions. This is the most common type of the disorder.
- Disorganized schizophrenia – Described as the person having incoherent thinking and disorganized behavior.
- Catatonic schizophrenia – A person withdraws and isolates from others.
- Residual schizophrenia – Prominent symptoms are no longer displayed.
- Schizoaffective disorder – When a person has schizophrenia but also has either depression or bipolar disorder.
There are many interesting facts about this mental health problem that aren’t discussed as frequently as some of the myths are. One interesting fact is that over two million people in America have schizophrenia, which is defined as a brain disorder. This brain disorder can start appearing as early as the teenage years or young adult years of a person’s life.
Symptoms of Schizophrenia
The following is a list of schizophrenia symptoms, which are usually divided into positive and negative symptoms:
Positive Symptoms – Symptoms that are now present but weren’t there to begin with.
- Delusions – examples of delusions can include thinking people are spying on you.
- Hallucinations – seeing and hearing things that are not there.
- Disorganized thoughts
Negative Symptoms – Symptoms that are no longer in a person’s personality.
- isolation or withdrawal from others
- lack of motivation
- lac of self-care (such as bathing)
Because this disorder is so complex, it is easy for people to misidentify symptoms and misinterpret the meaning behind schizophrenia. Sometimes mental health disorders are treated like rumors, where the original meaning gets twisted the more times it is discussed. The first person describes it correctly. The fifth person describes it but adds a few exaggerations to the definition. By the time the 15th person defines the disorder, people with schizophrenia have magical powers that allow them to see and talk to dead people. That’s exactly how myths get started and how they become something larger than the illness itself. Below are a few common myths that need debunking in order to reduce the stigma.
Myth#1: People with Schizophrenia Have Split Personality
This is easily confused because the word “schizophrenia” means to split the mind. It is not that hard to see how someone could get the two mixed up. However, schizophrenia does not mean split personality. Multiple personality disorder, or dissociative disorder, happens when people report having different personalities, at least two or more, that have their own distinct traits. If a person reports having a split personality, they are saying they have two or more people within themselves. Schizophrenia on the other hand, is when a person has a break from reality and starts to have false ideas about things happening in their lives.
Myth #2: People with Schizophrenia Can’t Function in Society
There are severe cases of schizophrenia where people may find it hard to hold down a job or to run their own companies. This disorder can have huge impacts on the ability of a person to “fit in” with society. This can also be said for people with severe depression, anxiety or any other mental illness. Just because someone has a disorder with severe symptoms, does not mean the symptoms are not manageable enough for a person to function within society.
There are many people with schizophrenia who can function in society and lead successful personal and professional lives. They can do so with the help of a treatment team who can focus on the mental and behavioral treatments necessary to help them thrive.
It has been reported that with medications and supportive counseling, many people with this mental illness can improve enough over a ten year period to be high functioning members of society.
Myth #3: People with Schizophrenia Will Never Recover
The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that at least half of those suffering with schizophrenia can recover fully. Other reports state that those not using medications, but participating in other treatment forms showed fewer psychotic episodes. Without the help of counselors and doctors, recovery is hard. But when following a treatment plan created with a team of mental health professionals, recovery is extremely possible. Recovery includes integrating back into personal relationships and into a job they enjoy.
Myth #4: People with Schizophrenia Lose Their Memory
It has long been thought that the cognitive impairment involved in schizophrenia makes it impossible to improve the memory of a person with this disorder. Recently, in a Washington University study, it has been found that with the right memorization techniques, memory can be greatly improved among people with this disorder.
Furthermore, brain training apps have been developed specifically to help improve the memory of people with schizophrenia. These apps and other computer training games have shown to make a positive impact on memory related issues.
Myth #5: Schizophrenia is Caused by Brain Damage
Although it can affect several parts of the brain, it has not been found to be caused by brain damage. While an injury to the brain can increase the risk of triggering schizophrenia, all people with brain injuries are not susceptible to this mental health disorder.
Myths such as these can be harmful to a person’s recovery. There are many things you can do to help dispel the myths about schizophrenia. The most important is to research the facts. Knowing the truth gives you the most power to help defend the disorder. In doing so, you will be helping to reduce the stigma surrounding schizophrenia and helping those with the disorder avoid being labeled, allowing them to be more widely accepted in society without biases and prejudices. This is what everyone deserves.
Is there another myth that you’ve heard which needs to be debunked? Let us know in the comments below.