Understanding Schizophrenia: Schizophrenia is a chronic mental disorder that alters a person’s thoughts, feelings, and actions. Today, roughly 1.2 percent of the United States population is affected by the disorder.
There are five common cardinal symptoms of schizophrenia: hallucinations, delusions, disorganized speech, disorganized or catatonic behavior, and negative symptoms (emotional flatness, apathy, lack of speech, etc.). To make a proper diagnosis, patients must exhibit two or more of these symptoms for at least 30 days.
While schizophrenia can be a debilitating disorder, the severity of symptoms vary from person to person. There are many misconceptions surrounding schizophrenia, which can negatively impact a patient, as well as their loved ones. In an effort to reduce the stigma of schizophrenia, here are five myths and facts about schizophrenia:
Understanding Schizophrenia - Myth #1: "People with schizophrenia have multiple personalities"
Schizophrenia is characterized by a person’s altered perception of reality. Often times, patients have difficulty distinguishing imagination and reality. However, this does not mean a patient has multiple personalities. One study found that 64 percent of Americans believe schizophrenia involves a split personality. Dissociative Identity Disorder, also known as Multiple Personality Disorder, is entirely unrelated to schizophrenia, both of which have a unique set of symptoms.
Understanding Schizophrenia - Myth #2: "People with schizophrenia are dangerous"
Schizophrenia can cause patients to act unpredictably, however rarely do they commit acts of violence. In fact, most patients withdraw themselves from society altogether. For the small subset of people with schizophrenia who are considered dangerous, drugs and alcohol are often involved.
Understanding Schizophrenia - Myth #3: "People with schizophrenia never recover"
Schizophrenia is a very challenging condition. However, with proper treatment, patients can live very normal lives. In fact, 25 percent of patients living with schizophrenia recover completely. An additional 50 percent of patients see improvement in their symptoms. Medication and support from loved ones and/or caregivers can contribute to the success of a patient’s treatment.
Understanding Schizophrenia - Myth #4: "People with schizophrenia are lazy"
Patients with schizophrenia may have difficulty carrying out basic daily functions, such as bathing or dressing. However, with the help of a caregiver or loved one, patients can live very productive lives.
Understanding Schizophrenia - Myth #5: "People with schizophrenia aren't smart"
Some studies show that patients with schizophrenia have memory and learning problems. However, this does not mean they are not intelligent. John Forbes Nash Jr., a Nobel Memorial Prize winner and celebrated mathematician, was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia around the age of 30. Additionally, scientists are studying “links between genes that may be related to both psychosis and creativity.”