Schizophrenia is a rare mental health condition. Less than 1 percent of the adult population has this condition. At Carolina Dunes Behavioral Health in Leland, North Carolina, we treat people with schizophrenia every day, and we want to share the truth about this condition.
Truths About Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia impacts both males and females, but it may do so differently:
- Males are more likely to develop symptoms in their teens or early 20s.
- Females are more likely to be impacted in their 20s or 30s.
- It is very rare for anyone to develop symptoms before the age of 12 or after the age of 40.
Schizophrenia is one of the most misunderstood mental health conditions. It is frequently confused with other diagnoses, and people who don’t know a lot about it are sometimes fearful of people who have this label. This fear comes from a lack of knowledge and the myths that arise in ignorance.
Myth #1: People With Schizophrenia are Violent
Mentally ill individuals are far more likely to become the victims of violence than the perpetrators, and the amount of violent crime perpetrated by individuals with any type of serious mental health concern makes up only around 3-5 percent of all violent crime. While that does sometimes include people with schizophrenia, that number accounts for all mental health conditions.
Myth #2: People with Schizophrenia Have Multiple Personalities
Many people confuse dissociative identity disorder (DID), sometimes called multiple personality disorder, with schizophrenia. These are not the same diagnoses. Schizophrenia symptoms include:
- Visual –The person may see lights, objects, patterns, or people, including loved ones who have passed on. They may also struggle with distances and depth perception.
- Auditory – Voices inside the person’s head may whisper, murmur, make threats, or command them to do certain things.
- Olfactory – The person might hallucinate good or bad smells or tastes, or may believe that someone is trying to poison them.\
- Tactile – The person might feel the sensation of someone touching them or bugs crawling on their skin.
- Delusions, such as:
- Feeling like someone is after them, trying to trick them or convey special messages through public communication
- Believing they have a strange health issue
- Holding odd religious views
- Considering themselves more famous or important than they are
- Blunted emotions and lack of pleasure
- Confusion, which could lead to verbal communication that does not make sense.
- Difficulty concentrating – inability to follow the plot of a television show, for example
- Unusual body movements – repetitive movements or not moving at all for hours on end or being jumpy
- Withdrawal – no longer making plans with friends and not wanting to leave the house
Myth #3: People with Schizophrenia are Not Able to Work
With the right support and medications, many people with schizophrenia can work part-time or even full-time jobs. Around 2 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with schizophrenia, and around 25 percent can make full recoveries if treated within 6 months to 2 years. Another 35-40 percent can make significant improvement with only minor symptoms if they receive prompt, appropriate treatment. Working seems to help their chances of recovery when offered alongside therapy, family education, medication, and self-help groups.
Myth #4: People With Schizophrenia Usually Need Long-Term Hospitalization
Though long-term hospitalizations may be necessary to help stabilize a person with schizophrenia in some cases, others with schizophrenia require only brief, acute hospital stays, and some can be treated outpatient and may live in a group home, with their family, or even independently. It really depends on the person and their specific needs.
Myth #5: Bad Parenting Causes Schizophrenia
There is evidence that schizophrenia can run in families, with about a 10 percent chance that a child of a parent with schizophrenia will also receive the diagnosis, but there is no reason to believe that the illness is caused by how their parents raised them. Environmental factors such as early malnutrition and exposure to toxins can contribute to the illness, as well as brain chemistry, substance use, and autoimmune diseases..
Myth #6: People With Schizophrenia are not Intelligent
Anyone who has seen “A Beautiful Mind” can tell you that even geniuses can have schizophrenia. The condition can make it more difficult for people to focus, learn new things, and remember information, but that doesn’t mean they are unintelligent.
Myth #7: Schizophrenia Symptoms Appear Suddenly, With a Psychotic Break
The symptoms of schizophrenia appear gradually and may be difficult to notice. In the earliest stages, the person may be less interested in socializing and engaging in normal activities. They may seem withdrawn but give few other signals that anything is wrong.
Myth #8: Schizophrenia Cannot Be Treated
It is important to recognize the difference between treatment and a cure. There is not a known cure for schizophrenia that will make it permanently go away, but there are some very effective treatments that can make it manageable. Antipsychotic medications and therapy work very well for many people with schizophrenia.
Myth #9: People With Schizophrenia Did Something to Cause It
Science points to heredity, birth trauma, and environmental factors as the causes of schizophrenia. Stress and anxiety are not good for the person and can make symptoms worse, but they do not cause it.
Myth #10: People with Schizophrenia are Lazy
Anyone managing the symptoms of schizophrenia would be understandably exhausted and might have little energy left for personal hygiene, chores, or work, especially if they are struggling with really severe symptoms.
If you are concerned that someone you know may be struggling with schizophrenia, our knowledgeable team can help you determine what steps you can take to help.