Schizophrenia is an often misunderstood mental health disorder due to inaccurate portrayals in the media. Due to the spreading of misinformation, a stigma exists that surrounds the disorder, causing harm to individuals struggling with it. Therefore, debunking myths surrounding schizophrenia is crucial to facilitate understanding and empathy. At Alta Loma Transformational Services, we understand the difficulties individuals with schizophrenia face due to unfair stigma. Our services help heal the wounds caused by others and treat the disorder to help patients lead productive happy lives.
Myth 1: Individuals With Schizophrenia Are Dangerous
Perhaps one of the most widely held beliefs about schizophrenia is the idea that individuals with the disorder are dangerous, but this claim is inaccurate. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), people with schizophrenia are no more likely to present dangerous or violent behavior than the general population. While their behavior may be unpredictable, this does not mean they are prone to violence.
However, people with schizophrenia are more prone to hurting themselves. Studies show the lifetime suicide rate for young people with schizophrenia is 4.5 higher than in the general population.
Myth 2: Schizophrenia Symptoms Are Similar for Everyone
Movies and TV shows typically portray schizophrenia as full of hallucinations and a disconnect from reality. However, various kinds of schizophrenia include disorganized, paranoid, catatonic, and childhood.
There are also two types of schizophrenia symptoms: positive and negative. Each of these includes differing symptoms that distinguish them from one another. Some positive symptoms include visual and auditory hallucinations, delusions in thought processes and confused thoughts.
Negative symptoms of schizophrenia share similarities with other conditions, such as depression, lack of interest in life, poor concentration and disturbed sleeping patterns.
A person with disorganized schizophrenia will experience chaotic speech or behavior, while a person with paranoid schizophrenia is more likely to experience hallucinations and delusions.
Myth 3: Schizophrenia Is Untreatable
Many individuals believe that schizophrenia is untreatable because of the exaggerated ways the media portrays it. However, several treatments are used to rehabilitate those with schizophrenia and help them live healthy lives.
Many take antipsychotic medications and undergo various forms of therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy. Others receive deep brain stimulation. Depending on the person’s needs, the treatment staff will tailor the treatment to produce the best outcome in a successful recovery.
Myth 4: All Individuals With Schizophrenia Need Long-Term Hospitalization
One of the many myths about schizophrenia is that all individuals need to spend the majority of their life in a hospital. That was probably the case 100 years ago, and many patients were left behind by their families in so-called mental asylums.
However, modern psychiatric treatment has come a long way in the past century. People with schizophrenia symptoms can be treated in a mix of inpatient and outpatient programs. The level of care each individual receives for this mental disorder is based on their specific needs.
Some people might need to be treated in a hospital setting long-term, respond well to medication and partial hospitalization or only need regular visits to their medical provider for proper treatment.
Some common ways to treat schizophrenia symptoms include a mix of cognitive behavioral therapies with antipsychotic medication.
Most people with schizophrenia respond well to treatment and can live independently, with their families or in special group homes with peers also affected by mental health disorders.
Myth 5: Schizophrenia Only Affects Highly Intelligent Individuals
As schizophrenia is among the most misunderstood mental health conditions, many media portrayals of the “genius with schizophrenia myth.” Seeing such depictions could encourage viewers to think schizophrenia symptoms directly relate to high intelligence and creative geniuses.
That’s far from accurate. While some studies suggest a connection between mental illness and creativity, having schizophrenia is no indicator of intelligence.
There are a few examples throughout history of highly creative individuals, such as John Nash, having schizophrenia, but there is little evidence of that being the norm for all patients with this disorder.
Myth 6: Individuals With Schizophrenia Are Not Very Smart
Unfortunately, many people confuse schizophrenia with other mental health conditions and make assumptions about the intelligence of people with this condition.
Part of the reason for this myth is that people with schizophrenia don’t tend to score high on standardized IQ tests. However, studies consistently show little connection between a person’s intelligence and diagnosis.
People with schizophrenia are just as likely to have a higher-than-average IQ as they are to have lower intelligence.
Schizophrenia symptoms don’t affect a person’s cognitive function but make them perceive the world differently. Most people with schizophrenia land somewhere in the middle on the intelligence scale.
Myth 7: People With Schizophrenia Also Have a Split Personality
This is probably the most common misconception about people with schizophrenia. The reason is that the condition’s name stems from the ancient Greek word “split mind.”
A split personality, more commonly known as a dissociative identity disorder, is an extremely rare mental illness and different from schizophrenia. Dissociative disorders may have some symptoms similar to schizophrenia but are unrelated.
Schizophrenia affects how a person thinks. People with schizophrenia often have an altered sense of reality. And the split personality myth often refers to how individuals’ emotions and thought processes work.
Despite the myth that a person with schizophrenia may switch between personalities and turn violent, in reality, these individuals are at higher risk of experiencing violence themselves.
Myth 8: Individual With Schizophrenia Can’t Keep Employment
Due to the complex nature of this serious mental illness, people with schizophrenia often struggle to function in day-to-day life, which includes obtaining and keeping employment.
Often, the main reasons people with schizophrenia struggle to find and keep jobs have little to do with their ability and more to do with the stigma, discrimination and the lack of available treatment. This often leads to social isolation, which can exacerbate their symptoms.
When individuals with schizophrenia receive the proper treatment, including medication, person-centered talking therapies and even support from their friends and family, they can find employment. Sometimes, a person can ask their place of work to make reasonable adjustments taking their condition into account.
A person with schizophrenia may thrive in a working environment where they feel they contribute meaningfully. Offering part-time hours and tasks that are not likely to overwhelm them may help individuals hold a job.
Staying employed may also help alleviate some symptoms, such as delusional thinking and hallucinations.
Myth 9: Schizophrenia Is a Mental Illness Caused by Bad Parenting
This common myth about schizophrenia started in the ’60s when doctors blamed parents, particularly mothers, for the onset of many mental health conditions, including schizophrenia. In reality, this complex condition has no set cause.
There are many risk factors for developing schizophrenia, including environmental factors. However, no evidence suggests this condition’s onset has anything to do with how a person was raised, and researchers have yet to find its exact cause.
Myth 10: Schizophrenia Runs in the Family
Another common myth surrounding schizophrenia is that children of parents with this illness automatically develop it as they grow.
While it’s true that having a family member diagnosed with this mental illness means you’re at an increased risk of developing it, researchers don’t fully understand how high the risk factors are.
The American Journal of Psychiatry states many possible causes for this complex condition, including genetic predisposition, environmental factors and life stressors. Having a family member with the condition doesn’t necessarily mean a person will develop the same symptoms.
Myth 11: Individuals With Schizophrenia Are Lazy
Schizophrenia can affect a person in many different ways. Accusing people with schizophrenia of being lazy is one of the most upsetting myths surrounding this illness. Schizophrenia modifies a person’s brain chemistry, causes psychotic symptoms and changes how they perceive their surroundings.
Additionally, negative symptoms of schizophrenia include other symptoms that prevent the individual from living a meaningful and fulfilling life. People with this diagnosis are not lazy; they have a complex mental illness and need proper treatment and support to overcome their symptoms.
Myth 12: Symptoms of Schizophrenia Start Out of Nowhere
Many people think that individuals with schizophrenia start developing psychosis and other symptoms without warning. Portrayals in movies and television shows seem to have popularized this myth.
In reality, most people who develop schizophrenia often show several signs before the onset of the illness. Some signs that a person is likely to develop this disorder usually start during their teenage years and may often be confused with symptoms of other psychiatric disorders.
Early warning signs in teens and young adults may include:
- Depressive episodes
- Trouble concentrating
- Increased social isolation
- Strange behaviors
- Constant worrying and anxiety
- A sudden drop in school grades
- Episodes of unexplained anger
- Low energy levels
Myth 13: Schizophrenia Is the Only Mental Health Condition That Causes Hallucinations
The experience of visual and auditory hallucinations has almost become synonymous with schizophrenia. While psychosis is one common symptom of schizophrenia, it’s not exclusive to it.
Some people can experience hallucinations as a result of substance abuse. Individuals with other mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, may also experience psychotic episodes.
Even conditions such as dementia and Parkinson’s can occasionally cause the patient to see and hear hallucinations.
Myth 14: People With Schizophrenia Can Never Lead Happy and Fulfilled Lives
Films and television shows portray people with schizophrenia as unable to overcome their condition, which leads to them living unhappy lives. While the condition is challenging for the individual and their loved ones, there’s no reason why a person with this diagnosis can’t live a fulfilling life.
The proper treatment combined with support from family and friends can help people develop healthy coping mechanisms to manage their symptoms. Most people with this mental illness live with their families, but some can even lead healthy, independent lives. Often, factors such as social stigma and no access to proper medical care are more detrimental to a person’s life than schizophrenia itself.
Myth 15: Schizophrenia Is an Extremely Rare Mental Illness
Schizophrenia is a highly stigmatized and misunderstood medical condition. So, it’s natural that myths about schizophrenia suggest it’s sporadic. However, that’s not quite the case. Some surveys indicate that this disorder affects around 1.1% of the global population. While that still makes it relatively rare, it’s not as uncommon as the media would have people think.