Mental disorders are often portrayed in a bad light in media,1 which results in negative stereotypes that have long been ingrained in American culture. However, just like physical ailments, mental disorders are an illness, and those who suffer from these need help and support.
There's certainly a lack of understanding and education on how to cope with mental diseases, because families typically focus on physical health. You can manage a cold easily, but when a family member develops a mental illness, you're not really sure what to do.
It's estimated that 54 million Americans are affected with a mental illness in a given year.2 The most common types that you may have heard about are depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety problems and schizophrenia. The last one in particular, is probably the most misunderstood.
Common Misconceptions About Schizophrenia
There are plenty of misconceptions that surround schizophrenia. The examples below are the most prominent ones, which you may already be aware of:3
• Schizophrenics have multiple personalities: it's unsure how this idea came about, but schizophrenics do not have "split" or multiple personalities. The idea may have come from the name itself, wherein the word "schizo" means split, but the word actually refers to a person’s ability to think and express emotions.
People with multiple personalities are diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder.
• Schizophrenics have dangerous behavior: this myth probably comes from the constant negative portrayal of schizophrenics in films. They're often portrayed as criminals or have paranoid behavior that could endanger their families or friends.
In truth, only a very small number of schizophrenics do commit crimes, and if they do happen, 23 percent of their crimes were caused directly by their symptoms.
• Schizophrenia can't be treated: while it's true that schizophrenia has no cure, that doesn't mean schizophrenics can't be helped. A combination of different treatment methods can work together to reduce your risk for a schizophrenia attack. In fact, many schizophrenics go on to have a successful recovery and excel in their chosen careers.
• Schizophrenia is caused by bad parenting or a bad childhood:4 people often speculate that the reason why someone gets schizophrenia is due to having a difficult childhood. This isn't the case, as schizophrenia is caused by a complex interplay of genes and your environment. Your upbringing is just one part of the equation.
What Is Schizophrenia Anyway?
• Delusions: a firmly held belief or idea that isn't really true. This commonly manifests as paranoid thoughts about government agents, aliens or other supernatural beings.
• Hallucinations: these are things that only the schizophrenic may feel, hear or see.
• Disorganized speech: schizophrenics typically exhibit troubles maintaining a train of thought.
• Disorganized behavior: this refers to behavior that is out of context, such as responses that are opposite of what is expected.
• Negative symptoms: this refers to the absence of normal behavior, such as a lack of enthusiasm for activities, or lack of emotional expression.
Researchers aren’t sure how schizophrenia develops, but it’s often accepted that your genes and the environment you live in (upbringing, location, etc.) all play a part. Evidence also suggests that schizophrenia has a hereditary component. If you have a schizophrenic relative, there’s a chance you may get it as well.
Treating schizophrenia relies on a combination of different methods, all working together to help manage the symptoms. A healthy diet, exercise and supportive therapy are generally recommended to help lower your risk for an attack. Medication may be prescribed as well, but be aware that they come with many side effects.
This guide aims to inform and educate you about schizophrenia, such as its different subtypes, symptoms, treatment and factors that may increase your risk. You’ll also discover how to spot early signs of this mental disorder. But note that the information provided here isn’t enough to help you manage schizophrenia alone. It’s still important to consult with a trusted doctor, preferably one who has plenty of experience helping schizophrenics in the past.