7 Myths Associated With Schizophrenia
Although schizophrenia was first described over a hundred years ago and we have been studying it closely ever since we still do not fully understand it. Consequently, schizophrenia is surrounded by more than its fair share of myths about its causes and features. Here are a few of them:
Myth 1: People With Schizophrenia Have The Same Physical Health as Everyone Else
Fact: Many people do not realize the impact schizophrenia has on people’s physical health. The physical effects of mental illness, combined with the side effects of antipsychotic medication and lifestyle factors mean people with the illness have a life expectancy 20 years lower than average.
Myth 2: People With Schizophrenia Have a Split Personality
A 2008 survey carried out by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) found that some 64% of the American population believe that people with schizophrenia have two or more separate personalities, which simply isn’t the case. They have one, like everybody else. Perhaps the confusion stems from the word itself. Schizophrenia originates from the Greek word, meaning ‘split mind’. Though schizophrenia may affect the way we think, it most certainly doesn’t mean multiple personalities. Dissociative identity disorder, which more closely relates to the ‘split personality’ notion, is completely different to schizophrenia, and entirely unrelated.
Myth 3: Schizophrenia Can’t be Treated
In old movies—and in old times in general—people with schizophrenia often were carted off to institutions, often to live the rest of their lives in isolation. In many ways, developing a severe mental disorder was the same as receiving a life sentence in prison. For this reason, many people erroneously believe that schizophrenia can’t be treated and that institutionalization is the only solution.
Although it’s true that schizophrenia cannot be cured, it can be successfully treated. Medication, rehabilitation practices, and psychosocial therapies can help individuals with schizophrenia lead independent and productive lives. In fact, with proper treatment, many people with schizophrenia appear to be completely healthy.
Myth 4: People With Schizophrenia Need to be Monitored at All Times
In reality, even when I am in the midst of psychosis, I only see my GP or psychiatrist for a check-up about once a week to monitor my medication and mental health.
Myth 5: Schizophrenia Is Easy to Recognize Because People Act “Crazy”
Some people do have wild, unpredictable behavior, that’s for sure, especially when they’re in the midst of a psychotic episode. But there’s one type of schizophrenia, known as disorganized schizophrenia, that has very different symptoms from what you might expect. Instead of acting out, someone with disorganized schizophrenia may seem to be turning inward, says emergency medicine doctor Mark Morocco, an associate professor at UCLA Emergency Medical Center. You might notice what experts call a “flat affect,” such as a lack of eye contact and emotional response, or unusual emotional reactions such as laughing inappropriately or lashing out illogically. Withdrawal — to the point of refusing to go out in public — wearing strange clothes, and refusing to bathe or wash also signs. Often people with disorganized schizophrenia begin speaking in a flat, staccato pattern with little or no inflection, and they say things that don’t make sense. Disorganized schizophrenia can be very difficult to distinguish from other problems common to teenagers and young adults, such as drug abuse and depression. So you’ll need an experienced psychiatrist to diagnose it.
Myth 6: Schizophrenia is The Result of a Poor Childhood Environment
A toxic environment during formative years has an impact on mental health, but genetics are just as active in forming the basis of schizophrenia. It takes a combination of predisposition and the right environmental conditions to produce the symptoms of schizophrenia, and even when they begin to appear, they are so complex that sufferers may not even know that they are affected. However, no human being benefits from growing up in a dark or violent environment. Genetics may be the foundation of schizophrenia, but a traumatic childhood likely pushes that genetics into effect.
Myth 7: Schizophrenia Only Affects Your Mind
Many people do not realize the impact schizophrenia has on people’s physical health. People with schizophrenia have an average life expectancy that is up to 20 years shorter than people without the condition. This may be due to a variety of factors, including lifestyle, a lack of physical health checks for those living with the illness, and the side-effects of antipsychotic medication. This can include extreme weight gain, that can, in turn, increase someone’s risk of developing heart disease or diabetes.