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April 2, 2012 at 11:53 AMComments: 3 Faves: 0

13 Myths of Schizophrenia

By Brad Plaggemars More Blogs by This Author

Schizophrenia is a disorder that people perceive in a number of ways. 85 percent of Americans identify that schizophrenia is, indeed, a disorder. Only 24 percent, however, are actually familiar with schizophrenia.

People affected by schizophrenia not only cope with a serious disease, but also have to live with the judgement, fear, confusion, and disgust of those around them. Those who judge fail to see the severity of this disorder. Researchers have discovered 13 myths that affect the way people view those living with schizophrenia.

The 13

All individuals with schizophrenia experience the same symptoms.

This is false because there are different types of schizophrenia. Every individual, even those diagnosed with the same type of schizophrenia, are affected differently. Robert E. Drake, M.D., Ph.D, a professor of psychiatry and of community and family medicine at Dartmouth Medical School says that schizophrenia is "a huge, huge range of people and problems." Schizophrenia is so mysterious to us because we fail to put ourselves in the shoes of those who are affected by this disorder.

People with schizophrenia are dangerous, unpredictable and out of control.

Dawn I. Velligan, Ph.D, a professor and co-director of the Division of Schizophrenia and Related Disorders at the Department of Psychiatry, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio says, "When their illness is treated with medication and psychosocial interventions, individuals with schizophrenia are no more violent than the general population." Those who are not familiar with schizophrenia make assumptions before knowing anything regarding the disorder. Irene S. Levine, Ph.D, a psychologist and co-author of "Schizophrenia for Dummies" says that, "People with schizophrenia more often tend to be victims rather than perpetrators of violence although untreated mental illness and substance abuse often increase the risk of aggressive behavior." In other words, people with schizophrenia tend to be the exact opposite of what people assume.

Schizophrenia is a character flaw.

A common perception of those with schizophrenia is that schizophrenics are lazy, lacking motivation, lethargic, easily confused, and so on. However, the thought that schizophrenia is nothing more than a character deficiency is completely untrue. Irene S. Levine, Ph.D and Jerome Levine, M.D., co-author of "Schizophrenia for Dummies", say that this way of thinking "is no more realistic than suggesting that someone could prevent his epileptic seizures if he really wanted to or that someone could ‘decide’ not to have cancer if he ate the right foods. What often appears as character defects are symptoms of schizophrenia."

Cognitive decline is a major symptom of schizophrenia.

Unmotivated people tend to experience cognitive issues among problem solving, attention, memory, and processing. Forgetfulness, rambling, and difficulty organizing thoughts are symptoms of schizophrenia and have nothing to do with a person's character or personality.

There are psychotic and non-psychotic people.

Most people see psychosis as categorical, meaning, you're either psychotic or not, "instead of symptoms residing in continuum." A good example of such thinking is the thought that people are either depressed or happy. Everyone would agree that this is not true. "There are gradients of depression, from mild one-day melancholy to deep, crippling clinical depression." Schizophrenia is the same way. Demian Rose, Ph.D, says, "schizophrenia symptoms are not fundamentally different brain processes, but lie on a continuum with normal cognitive processes."

Schizophrenia develops quickly.

Schizophrenia is a disorder that actually develops quite slowly. The first signs of schizophrenia usually surface in adolescence. These signs are usually seen include school, social and work decline, difficulties managing relationships and problems with organizing information. Dr. Rose says:

In schizophrenia’s beginning stages, an individual may not hear voices. Instead, he may hear whispers, which he can’t make out. This “prodromal” period — before the onset of schizophrenia — is the perfect time to intervene and seek treatment.

Schizophrenia is purely genetic.

There are studies that have shown that in pairs of identical twins the chance of developing schizophrenia is 48 percent. Since there are other factors that contribute to the disorder, i has become possible to reduce the risk of developing the disorder.

Schizophrenia is untreatable.

Schizophrenia is not curable, but it is treatable. There are many medications and therapies that a person can use to treat schizophrenia.

Sufferers need to be hospitalized.

Dr. Velligan says that most individuals affected by schizophrenia "do well living in the community with outpatient treatment. The key is the right treatment and adhering to that treatment, especially taking medication as prescribed."

People with schizophrenia can't lead productive lives.

In a 10-year study of 130 people with schizophrenia and substance abuse-"which co-occurs in nearly 50 percent of patients"- from the New Hampshire Dual Diagnosis Study, many people gained over their disorders.

"62.7 percent were controlling symptoms of schizophrenia; 62.5 percent were actively attaining remissions from substance abuse; 56.8 percent were in independent living situations; 41.4 percent were competitively employed; 48.9 percent had regular social contacts with non–substance abusers; and 58.3 percent expressed overall life satisfaction."

Medications make sufferers zombies.

When people think about anti-psychotic medication for schizophrenia they think of words like "lethargic, listless, uninterested and vacant." Many people think that taking such medication causes these kinds of symptoms. However, these symptoms either come from schizophrenia, itself, or over-medicating.

Anti-psychotic medications are worse than the illness itself.

Medication is the backbone of schizophrenia treatment. Anti-psychotic medications reduce delusions, hallucinations, confusing thoughts and abnormal behavior. There is the possibility of severe, and sometimes fatal, side effects, but they are rare. Dr. Torrey says:

"Antipsychotic drugs, as a group, are one of the safest groups of drugs in common use and are the greatest advance in the treatment of schizophrenia that has occurred to date."

Individuals with schizophrenia can never regain normal functioning.

Schizophrenia, unlike dementia, is a disorder that seems to be reversible. There is no way to say that there is no hope for a person affected by schizophrenia.


Photo Credit:

Alaina Abplanalp Photography

Ishan Manjrekar

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  • Great information here! I've read before that schizophrenia that suddenly develops is much more treatable and reversible than schizophrenia that develops slowly.

  • That's very interesting! I've never heard that before!

  • What about the myth that schizophrenics are smarter than non-schizoprehinc people?

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