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10 Myths About Schizophrenia

OI all the mental illnesses on the planet, Iew remain as heavily and tragically misunderstood as
schizophrenia. The mythology surrounding the condition lay thicker in the public consciousness
than the actual realities, and the implications oI this remain seriously grim. Perpetuation oI these
misconceptions means the Iurther isolation oI those suIIering Irom the disorder Irom their
Iriends, Iamily, and peers, discouraging them Irom pursuing the therapy they sorely need to
recover. Educating society on the true concepts, nuances, and machinations behind schizophrenia
is the best way to ensure that its victims learn how to chip away at the symptoms and go on to
lead Iull, enjoyable, and productive lives with the proper care and guidance Irom a mental health
1. Schizophrenia involves multiple personalities.
One oI the most prevailing misconceptions regarding
schizophrenia revolves around conIusing it with Dissociative Identity Disorder. Not only
do they have very little in common, but they belong to entirely diIIerent classiIications in
the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition, Text Revision.
DID, Iormerly known as multiple personality disorder, Ialls under the label oI a
dissociative disorder. The diagnostic criteria require the presence oI at least two entirely
unique personalities with easily distinguished behavior patterns, one oI which must
regularly assume control oI the body over the other. These must be proven to not stem
Irom any physiological or medical source whatsoever it absolutely has to set its roots
purely in a patient`s psyche. In addition, they suIIer Irom blackouts and memory loss Iar
beyond the lapses experienced by healthier individuals.
Schizophrenia, by contrast, is classiIied under the psychotic disorder spectrum. It
contains 5 diIIerent subtypes, each with varying symptoms and diagnostic requirements.
Delusions, visual and/or auditory hallucinations, disorganized speech and thoughts,
dramatically erratic or outright catatonic behavior patterns, avolition, alogia, and a
deadening oI emotional responses may all indicate the onset oI a schizophrenic episode.
It shares symptoms with bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder,
schizophreniIorm disorder, schizoaIIective disorder, and substance abuse issues at no
point does it cross over with DID. The conIusion set in with the mainstream due to the
Greek etymology oI the word, where it literally means 'I split. Due to perpetual
misrepresentations by the media, who almost universally portray schizophrenia as
synonymous with multiple personalities rather than its actual symptomatic set, society
has grown to perceive the two as interchangeable disorders.
. Schizophrenics are inherently dangerous people.
As with most mental illnesses, many people Ialsely adhere to the believe that all victims
suIIering Irom any such symptoms pose an immediate and non-negotiable threat to
themselves and others. Schizophrenia is no diIIerent. Due to overarching misconceptions
regarding the relationship between the mentally ill and acts oI violence, many people
perceive schizophrenics as universally dangerous. Like many other disorders, substance
abuse runs the risk oI ampliIying the symptoms oI schizophrenia and creating a
disturbance where none previously existed. In these instances, the drugs or alcohol
shoulder the brunt oI the blame even individuals living liIe without the inIluence oI a
mental illness become capable oI brutality aIter reckless consumption oI these mind-
altering materials.
In reality, those with schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders only comprise
anywhere between 1 to 5 oI violent crimes against other individuals. 10, tragically,
end up committing suicide making those with schizophrenia more likely to stand as a
danger to themselves rather than others. Many oI them Ieel pushed to the brink oI killing
themselves due to extreme levels oI marginalization and misunderstanding courtesy oI
mainstream society. In Iact, schizophrenics are Iar more likely to end up as the victims oI
violent criminals rather than the perpetrators. However, with proper therapy and, in
some cases, medication it is entirely possible to calm the symptoms which may
possibly lead to later violence. Though only the minority oI patients engage in such
behavior, anyone suIIering Irom the disorder ought to seek therapy in order to keep their
thoughts and emotions under control and Iurther reduce the risk oI a suicidal or other
violent incident.
. There is no reason for schizophrenics to receive psychotherapeutic treatment -
they`ll just keep relapsing.
Treatment Ior schizophrenia usually involves psychosocial therapy, cognitive behavior
therapy, selI-help groups, Iamily therapy, antipsychotic medications, or some
combination thereoI. By learning how to take control oI their illness, schizophrenics may
very well end up leading happy, productive lives once the proper blend oI therapy and/or
medication has been established. Upon the establishment oI a gratiIying, personalized
method oI treatment, the risk oI a relapse drops signiIicantly. Roughly halI to 2/3 oI
schizophrenics undergoing a psychotherapeutic regimen that meets their needs improve
signiIicantly iI not outright recover. The psychological community deIines recovery
Irom schizophrenia as a complete sloughing oII oI the disorder`s symptoms. Patients
Iunction and integrate themselves in a healthy manner without the aid oI therapy and
medication. While no universal cure Ior schizophrenia exists, individual ones do and
when they are discovered they mean bringing the victim out oI their encroaching
darkness and back into a satisIying and stable liIe.
UnIortunately, due to overarching stigmas Ialsely regarding psychotherapy as the
exclusive realm oI the crazy, the misanthropic, and the living damned, many individuals
suIIering Irom schizophrenia and other mental illnesses shy away Irom pursuing it.
Fearing stigmatization and Iurther shoving towards the Iringes oI society, many reIuse
treatment with the ingrained mindset that it means something inherently hideous and
incurable about them. By promoting a better understanding oI and education in the Iacts
and Iictions regarding mental illnesses and psychotherapy, schizophrenics and others
Iighting the uphill battle may grow to Ieel more comIortable with seeking the advice oI a
counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist.
. Schizophrenics are generally too far gone to work, and the ones who can rarely
rise above the menial level.
In reality, schizophrenics run the gamut Irom a complete inability to work to highly
Iunctioning in an impressively accomplished career. Nobel Prize-winning mathematician
and academically esteemed proIessor at Princeton and MIT John Forbes Nash, Jr. battles
paranoid schizophrenia, as does bestselling author Robert M. Pirsig. All individuals
regardless oI their mental health status possess an individualized aptitude and capability
Ior certain jobs, and schizophrenics are no diIIerent than anyone else in that matter. Only
the most extreme cases may prove incapable oI Iunctioning in a work environment,
usually those diagnosed with severe maniIestations oI catatonic schizophrenia.
5. Schizophrenia is just a clinical term for a character defect.
Along with most other mental illnesses such as depression,
obsessive-compulsive disorder, and eating disorders, one oI the most common
misconceptions about schizophrenia revolves around its status as a personal Ilaw instead
oI a serious medical condition. Due to its inclusion in the DSM-IJ, TR, an oIIicial
diagnostic manual in the psychology community, schizophrenia and all its subtypes are
considered something Iar more serious than a mere chip in an individual`s character. It is
a mental illness and must be approached and treated as such by the doctors, Iriends, and
Iamily surrounding the aIIlicted. Thinking oI it as a triIling imperIection implies that a
cure lay in little more than a conscious shiIt in mindset and careIul attention to behavior
patterns. As the disorder roots itselI in Iar more than just an individual`s personality,
these potentially destructive perceptions prove patently Ialse.
Scientists have narrowed schizophrenia`s origins to genetics possibly triggered by
certain environmental Iactors and a patient`s brain structure and chemical makeup.
While Iar more research is needed to determine the actual roots oI the disorder, studies
show that it does in Iact run in Iamilies, with the children or siblings oI a patient 10
more likely to develop the symptoms over those with relatives lacking them. Some
theorize it may result Irom a mutated or malIunctioning gene that determines brain
chemistry and structure. Other research has revealed possible issues with the
neurotransmitters glutamate and dopamine in addition to enlarged ventricles, irregular
activity, cell distribution, and inadequate grey matter in the schizophrenic brain as well.
The true cause oI the disorder may remain obscured Ior a while, but Iew experts will
deny that schizophrenia lay Iirmly rooted somewhere in a victim`s biology.
. Symptoms of schizophrenia are relatively homogeneous.
Because medical proIessionals recognize 5 diIIerent subtypes oI the disorder (7 in
Europe, the actual symptoms oI schizophrenia remain Iar more diverse than many people
think. All oI them share at least 3 diagnostic criteria, with variances between the subtypes
and some individuals. In order to be considered schizophrenic, a patient must display two
or more oI the Iollowing symptoms: auditory or visual hallucinations, delusions, a
thought disorder, disorganized speech and behavior, catatonia, avolition, aIIective
Ilattening, or alogia. He or she must also suIIer Irom a social and/or career disruption,
and all symptoms must persist Ior a minimum oI 6 months. It must also be determined
that the patient does not suIIer Irom a mood disorder, pervasive developmental disorder,
a medical condition or medication which may artiIicially create the symptoms in an
otherwise psychologically stable individual, or chronic substance abuse.
From there, a patient receives a more speciIic diagnosis in one oI the 5 subtypes as
outlined in the DSM-IJ, TR paranoid schizophrenia, disorganized schizophrenia,
catatonic schizophrenia, undiIIerentiated schizophrenia, and residual schizophrenia.
Paranoid types are characterized by Irequent delusions or auditory and visual
hallucinations. Common psychoses Ior paranoids include a persecution complex,
irrational phobias, the unIounded belieI that certain individuals or organizations mean
them harm, concern that others may be capable oI reading and broadcasting their
thoughts, and that some external Iorce actually controls their actions. Thought disorders,
aIIective Ilattening, and disorganized behavior patterns are not present in paranoid
schizophrenics. Disorganized schizophrenics, however, display both aIIective Ilattening
and thought disorders and avolition and alogia in many instances. Patients may
occasionally battle delusions and hallucinations, but with signiIicantly diluted intensity
when compared to a paranoid type. Catatonic types either display almost entirely inert or
entirely spasmodic movement with absolutely no purpose and no provocation. Many may
Iall into a stupor, suIIer Irom waxy Ilexibility, or even die oI exhaustion iI not kept in
check. UndiIIerentiated types meet the diagnostic criteria Ior schizophrenia and psychosis
but none oI the aIorementioned subcategories. Residual schizophrenics only meet the
bare minimum oI symptoms required Ior diagnosis, and the severity oI these maniIest at a
rather subdued intensity.
. Schizophrenia is an extremely rare disorder.
Approximately 1.1 oI Americans over the age oI 18 receive a diagnosis oI
schizophrenia every year. However, due to mainstream society shaming and stigmatizing
the mentally ill and the psychotherapeutic avenues they need to get better, it is sadly
possible that many more suIIer Irom the disease and never seek out proIessional
guidance. As with many mental health conIlicts, schizophrenia remains entirely blind
when it comes to gender, sexual/gender orientation, ethnicity, or nation oI origin.
Symptoms begin their onset between the ages oI 16 and 30, with males developing them
earlier than Iemales and delusions generally appearing Iirst. Though rare, it is still
possible Ior schizophrenia to maniIest in a child. Mental health proIessionals especially
struggle in diagnosing the disorder in teens and adolescents. Because some oI the early
indicators oI schizophrenia involve irritability, apathy, sleeping issues, and social shiIts,
it becomes diIIicult to distinguish whether or not the individual in question merely deals
with the average stresses associated with the high school years or a genuine mental
8. The most defining characteristic of schizophrenia involves hearing voices in one`s
Thanks to media stereotyping, the most 'iconic (as it were element oI schizophrenia
involves auditory hallucinations. While they certainly one oI the many possible
diagnostic criteria oI the illness, not all cases oI schizophrenia involve the cliched voices
in the head. Typically, paranoid schizophrenics suIIer the most Irequently and the most
intensely Irom auditory hallucinations. Other types may experience them, though in the
cases where they are present it is typically more sporadic and signiIicantly less severe.
Schizophrenia encompasses a diverse set oI symptoms only Iew oI which genuinely
unite all 5 recognized subtypes in the United States, and auditory hallucinations do not
even stand among them. It is entirely plausible that the more dramatic elements oI the
disorder receive the most mainstream attention and have thereIore come to represent the
entirety oI schizophrenia. Reducing this serious mental illness to only one oI its basic
components serves as something oI a danger to those genuinely suIIering Irom it.
Friends, Iamily, and other loved ones oI an individual displaying the symptoms may not
always recognize that they meet the diagnostic requirements, operating under the
assumption that schizophrenia only involves hearing voices. The same can be said Ior an
individual concerned that he or she may suIIer Irom the disorder as well. More
sympathetic and accurate depictions oI schizophrenia by the mainstream media is one oI
the many ways oI helping to dispel this all-too-common misconception and bring more oI
those victimized by its symptoms closer to therapy and recovery.
. A schizophrenic may only undergo rehabilitation upon attaining stability.
Once an individual has received a Iormal diagnosis oI schizophrenia, rehabilitation must
begin immediately in order to inIuse him or her with all the tools necessary Ior the
simultaneously most eIIective and swiIt method oI treatment. Waiting too long Ior a
patient to achieve stability prior to initiating the rehabilitation process may mean the
diIIerence between a recovery and merely doing better. Blending rehab with
psychotherapy has proven a Iar more successIul method oI treatment than stabilizing the
patient Iirst. Both are integral Ior the victim`s Iuture, imbuing him or her with the
personal awareness and skill sets essential to overcoming their mental obstacles and
Iunction as smoothly as possible within social and proIessional situations.
10. Schizophrenics have to be medicated the rest of their lives.
For schizophrenia patients who Iind a psychotherapy and medication regimen that
eIIiciently quells their symptoms, the recovery rate remains startlingly high. Some
proIessionals estimate between 25 and 50 oI the schizophrenic population cease to
display signs oI the disorder upon responsible long-term cessation oI their medications.
However, whether or not they achieve a Iull recovery hinges on a number oI diIIerent
Iactors. First, a suitable combination oI one or more types oI therapy as well as
medication must be Iound. Second, the victim must never waiver on taking medication as
directed. With some antipsychotic medications, symptoms may disappear within days oI
beginning but just because they seem gone does not mean they have completely
disappeared. The patient absolutely needs to stick with his or her doctor`s orders, as the
medications used to treat schizophrenia are highly volatile and may cause irreparable
physiological damage iI abused. Third, once the schizophrenic and his or her doctor
determine that the time is right to end medicated treatment, it must be done so with
progressively smaller doses over time. Inadequate weaning or immediate quitting may
trigger symptoms, potentially bringing them back in a more dire or potent manner.
Because oI these variables, patients, doctors, and concerned Iamily and Iriends must
ensure that the patient stays diligent to taking his or her medication. Responsibly
complying with directions Irom medical proIessionals and the pharmaceutical companies
themselves may mean the diIIerence between a Iull recovery and a Iull slip backwards
into psychosis.
Numerous misconceptions regarding schizophrenia prattle about the public consciousness; while
some stand as more vicious than others, all oI them pose a danger to those suIIering beneath its
overbearing tutelage. The more the mainstream swells to accept Ialsehoods and halI-truths as
absolute reality, the Iurther and Iurther away victims oI schizophrenia get Irom Iorging Ior
themselves a comIorting peace. As with most mental illnesses, ignorance makes Ior one oI
schizophrenia`s worst external challenges Irom it bursts the isolation, marginalization, and
bullying that discourage them Irom pursuing the necessary therapy. Deconstructing the Iallacies
and understanding where they come Irom leads to a well-inIormed ability to promote the truth,
thus nurturing a more hospitable environment Ior schizophrenics to seek suitable psychotherapy.
Under the inIluence oI a mental healthcare proIessional, schizophrenics may Iorge Ior
themselves a happy, IruitIul Iuture.