Schizophrenia is a complex mental health condition that is often misunderstood and shrouded in myths and misconceptions. This blog post aims to shed light on some of the most common misconceptions surrounding schizophrenia and provide accurate information to promote understanding and empathy.
What is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a chronic brain disorder that affects a person’s perception, thoughts, and behavior. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a split personality or multiple personality disorder. Instead, it is characterized by a disconnection from reality, hallucinations, delusions, and disturbances in thinking and emotional responsiveness.
People with schizophrenia may experience difficulty concentrating, disorganized thinking, and difficulty expressing emotions. They may also have trouble with memory, self-care, and social interactions.
Common schizophrenia symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia. Hallucinations involve seeing or hearing things that aren’t there, and delusions involve false beliefs that don’t change, even when presented with facts that contradict them. Paranoid thoughts, such as feeling like someone is out to get you, are also common.
Here are some specifics:
- Positive symptoms: hallucinations, paranoia, and exaggerated or distorted perceptions, beliefs, and behaviors.
- Negative symptoms: Loss or decrease in the ability to initiate plans, speak, express emotions, or find pleasure.
- Disorganized symptoms: Disorganized thinking and speech, trouble with logic, and sometimes bizarre behavior.
How is schizophrenia diagnosed?
A doctor can diagnose schizophrenia (or one of its related disorders) based on questions you ask, symptoms you describe, or actions you take. Also, they’ll ask questions to rule out other possible causes. A schizophrenia diagnosis is then based on what they find compared to the required criteria.
Schizophrenia requires the following symptoms, according to the DSM-5:
- Two of the five main symptoms are present.
- The symptoms have been present for at least a month.
- There is a direct impact on your ability to work or your relationships (friendly, romantic, professional, or otherwise).
What tests will be performed to diagnose this condition?
Schizophrenia cannot be diagnosed with a test. However, healthcare providers may run additional tests before diagnosing schizophrenia. Tests most likely to be performed include:
- Tests for imaging. CT scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs), and other imaging tests are often used by healthcare providers to rule out problems such as stroke, brain injuries, and tumors.
- Cerebrospinal fluid (spinal tap) tests, blood tests, and urine tests. Chemical changes in bodily fluids can explain behavioral changes. Heavy metal toxicity or other causes of poisoning, infections, or other problems can be ruled out through these tests.
- Testing of brain activity. A brain electroencephalogram (EEG) records the electrical activity in your brain. Using this test, you can determine if epilepsy is present.
What Causes Schizophrenia?
The exact cause of schizophrenia is unknown, but it is believed to be a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. Genetics may play a role, as the risk of developing schizophrenia is higher in people who have a family history of the disorder. Other possible causes include prenatal exposure to viruses or toxins or a lack of certain neurotransmitters in the brain.
Myths About Schizophrenia
Myth: Schizophrenia is rare.
One prevailing myth about schizophrenia is that it is a rare condition. However, this is far from the truth. According to the World Health Organization, schizophrenia affects an estimated 20 million people worldwide. It is more common than many people realize, and its impact extends beyond the individuals diagnosed to their families and communities.
Myth: People with Schizophrenia are violent and dangerous.
Another misconception that perpetuates stigma is the belief that individuals with schizophrenia are inherently violent and dangerous. In reality, people with schizophrenia are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. Research shows that the majority of individuals with schizophrenia pose no threat to others and are more prone to self-harm or isolation due to their symptoms.
Myth: Schizophrenia is caused by bad parenting or personal weakness.
Blaming parents or character flaws for the development of schizophrenia is a harmful and inaccurate belief. Schizophrenia is a complex interplay of genetic, environmental, and neurobiological factors. While stress and traumatic experiences can potentially trigger symptoms, they are not the sole cause. Understanding this helps combat the stigma surrounding the condition and encourages a compassionate approach.
Myth: Schizophrenia is untreatable.
Contrary to popular belief, schizophrenia is a treatable condition. With a comprehensive treatment plan that may include medication, therapy, and support services, individuals with schizophrenia can manage their symptoms and lead fulfilling lives. Early diagnosis and intervention play a crucial role in improving outcomes and promoting recovery.
Schizophrenia is incurable, but many patients manage with minimal symptoms. Antipsychotic medications lessen the severity of acute psychotic episodes and help reduce the potential for future episodes. Treatments that reduce symptoms and enhance function include cognitive behavioral therapy and supportive psychotherapy, as well as those that decrease stress, support employment, and improve social skills.
In the case of substance abuse, diagnosis and treatment can be complicated. The risk of misusing drugs is greater in people with schizophrenia than in the general population. Those who show signs of addiction should also receive treatment for schizophrenia if they are addicted.
Dispelling myths and misconceptions about schizophrenia is essential for fostering a more inclusive and understanding society. By challenging stereotypes and providing accurate information, we can create a supportive environment that promotes empathy, acceptance, and access to the resources necessary for individuals with schizophrenia to thrive.
If you or someone you know is struggling with schizophrenia, find a qualified mental health practitioner via our database.