While only affecting less than one percent of the U.S. population, schizophrenia has been a widely misunderstood psychiatric disorder. Many myths are from TV and movies, but the main cause is a lack of education about mental health.
Schizophrenia is a chronic mental illness with various causes that affects someone’s ability to think and act clearly. The brain often tells them they are hearing or seeing things that aren’t there. Schizophrenia affects all genders equally. Men seem to be diagnosed around the late teens to early twenties, and women in their twenties and thirties.
What Are the Symptoms of Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a unique mental illness that can be active or inactive during different periods of someone’s life. When the disease is active, it can present in episodes where the person can’t distinguish between unreal and real experiences. But as in any mental illness, the severity, length of episodes, and frequency can vary. It has been observed that severe psychotic symptoms often decrease as the person ages.
There are 3 categories of symptoms of Schizophrenia
These three categories include:
Positive Symptoms: (abnormally present)
- Hallucinations– hearing voices or seeing things that do not exist
- Delusions– the false belief that is fixed despite clear evidence that it is untrue
- Paranoia– believing they are being harassed or harmed by a person or group
- Psychosis– not understanding real from unreal
Negative Symptoms: (abnormally absent)
- Hindered emotional expression– unchanging facial expression, little to no change in tone, pitch, or strength of voice
- Decreased speech– difficulty saying words out loud, or complete mutism
- Can’t initiate plans– having a hard time getting started on any tasks
- Unable to find pleasure– receiving no enjoyment from things they once loved
- The trouble with logical thinking- unable to find a solution
- Confused or disorganized speech– shifting topics frequently, responding to a question with an unrelated answer, saying illogical things, or speaking incoherently
- Bizarre behavior– acting abnormally from their usual personality
- Abnormal movements– tics, jerking, tremors
Common Myths and Misconceptions about Schizophrenia
As society becomes more aware of mental health disorders and the need to understand fact from fiction, it is important to clear up any myths we can. Schizophrenia has dozens of misunderstandings surrounding it, but there are a few that are the most common.
Myth #1: Multiple Personalities
Multiple personalities, or dissociative identity disorder (DID), is where a person has two or more personalities coming out at different times. A person could know about the other personalities or not, but they are all manifestations of a single, whole person. Someone suffering from DID may hear several voices that talk to one another. They may hear a combination of adult and child voices, but people with schizophrenia most often only hear adult voices.
People with schizophrenia have symptoms that affect their thoughts, behaviors, and feelings. They may hear or see things that are not there, but their personalities do not split.
Myth #2: Schizophrenia Requires Long-Term Hospitalization
Many years ago, before mental illnesses were understood, people with schizophrenia were hospitalized in long-term facilities. Unfortunately, this has created a stigma around the disease that has stuck around long after these practices have been abolished.
The truth is some people may need longer-term care than others, but it depends on the severity of their disease. Most people with schizophrenia can live independently, with family, or in supportive housing environments.
Myth #3: People with Schizophrenia Are Not Smart
This myth is one of the hardest to debunk. People suffering from mental illnesses can have symptoms like difficulty focusing and relaying important information.
When it comes to schizophrenia, one of the most common symptoms is disorganized thinking. This can mean it’s hard to take tests or stay on topic when writing an essay. But this does not mean someone isn’t smart.
Many successful, intelligent, and creative people have had schizophrenia.
Lionel Aldridge– Aldridge was an American football defensive end in the NFL for the Green Bay Packers. Lionel had an athletic college scholarship which he earned through an impressive GPA. He helped the Green Bay Packers win 2 Super Bowl championships during his professional football career.
John Nash Jr.- John was known by the age of 30 as one of the world’s most brilliant mathematicians. After a 20-year battle with the illness of schizophrenia, he was able to return to teaching at Princeton University. Nash won a Nobel Prize in Economics in 1994.
Veronica Lake– A successful actress of the 1940s and 1950s, Lake was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a child. She went on to conquer screens, the stage, and popular culture. Veronica credited her creativity to her schizophrenia and used it as her secret weapon.
Myth #4: Schizophrenia is Always Genetic
Schizophrenia does tend to run in families, but no single gene is thought to be responsible for it. As with most other mental health disorders, different combinations of genes make people more susceptible to the condition developing. If someone has a close relative, like a parent or sibling, who has schizophrenia, their chances are six times higher to develop the condition themselves. But, there are a few other causes of schizophrenia that are not genetic.
Environmental exposure to viruses or malnutrition before birth has increased the risk. Brain chemistry, specifically dopamine and glutamate, can play a role, too. But, substance abuse is one of the largest contributing factors that aren’t genetic.
Is There Hope for Someone with Schizophrenia?
The answer to this question is absolutely! Living a healthy, happy, successful life is possible. Even though schizophrenia is a complex diagnosis, it is treatable. Treatments look different for each person depending on the severity, cause, frequency, and length of episodes.
Treatment Options for Schizophrenia
Absolute Awakenings can help treat co-occurring disorders like substance abuse & schizophrenia. Mental Health Treatment Programs can help stop the need to self-medicate. This is done by helping achieve a more stable mood, addressing brain chemistry imbalances, and providing lasting relief.
Treatment for schizophrenia is always a multi-pronged and long-term process. Medication is typically the spotlight of these efforts. Thoughts, behaviors, and actions normalize when the right combination of medications is found.
Cognitive behavioral therapy and other psychotherapy can help adopt healthier habits and worldviews. Self-esteem and enhanced problem-solving abilities can also be positively impacted. Talking to an admissions counselor is a great first step in getting the help someone needs.
- Black R. Six Common Myths and Misconceptions About Schizophrenia. Published October 2, 2020. Accessed January 15, 2023. https://www.psycom.net/schizophrenia/six-myths-about-schizophrenia
- Schizophrenia. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Published May 2022. Accessed January 15, 2023. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/schizophrenia
- Schizophrenia.com. Accessed January 15, 2023. http://schizophrenia.com/stories/aldridge.htm
- Veronica Lake. In: Wikipedia. ; 2023. Accessed January 15, 2023. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Veronica_Lake&oldid=1130832471