Myths – Schizophrenia



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We set-up this page to keep track of any popular “Myths” and/or “Facts” that might be of interest to those Battling Schizophrenia, or are just looking for information about schizophrenia. We hope to keep it up to date by adding sites and “myths” found during our blog postings .. and posting myths from other sites that we visit on our way! Each topic heading below, is the location of where we have found the following myths from, and we hope that it’s okay to repost the information below. If you are the owner of the following websites and wish to contact us about this, please do so .. and email our webmaster … hart (at) PetLvr (dot) com

Schizophrenia Fellowship of nsw inc.

Myth: Schizophrenia is a split personality

Fact: People with schizophrenia have only ONE personality. The word ‘schizophrenia’ comes from the Greek word meaning ‘split’ and this is perhaps where the confusion started. However, schizophrenia is a split from reality rather than a split in personality.

Myth: People who have schizophrenia are violent

Fact: People who have schizophrenia are no more likely to be violent than any other group in the community. This is another very common and unfounded myth which is exacerbated by the media. There is, however, an increased risk of self-harm among people with schizophrenia. Often, because of the nature of the illness, violence is self-directed either through fear, delusional thinking or the decision to ‘no longer cope’ with the illness. It is fair to say that a person with schizophrenia has more to fear from the general community than the reverse, as they are often on the receiving end of quite severe stigmatisation, misunderstanding and outright discrimination.

Myth: People with schizophrenia are developmentally delayed.

Fact: People with schizophrenia are NOT developmentally delayed. This myth has its basis in the treatment programs in the 1960s. During this period, people with a developmental delay and people with a mental illness were placed in asylums together and this is probably where the confusion arose.

Myth: People with schizophrenia have a lower than average intelligence.

Fact: People with schizophrenia do NOT have a lower than average intelligence level. As with any population, there is a variation, but this is not a characteristic of the illness.

Mental Health Association of Greater St. Louis

Myth: Psychiatric disorders are not true medical illnesses like heart disease and diabetes. People who have a mental illness are just “crazy.”

Fact: The actual fact is that brain disorders, like heart disease and diabetes, are legitimate medical illnesses. Research shows there are genetic and biological causes for psychiatric disorders, and they can be treated effectively.

Myth: People with a severe mental illness, such as schizophrenia, are usually dangerous and violent.

Fact: The truth is that the incidence of violence in people who have a brain disorder is not much higher than it is in the general population. Those suffering from a psychosis such as schizophrenia are more often frightened, confused and despairing than violent.

Myth: Schizophrenia means split personality, and there is no way to control it.

Fact: Schizophrenia is often confused with multiple personality disorder. Actually, schizophrenia is a brain disorder that robs people of their ability to think clearly and logically. The estimated 2.5 million Americans with schizophrenia have symptoms ranging from social withdrawal to hallucinations and delusions. Medication has helped many of these individuals to lead fulfilling, productive lives.

Myth: Depression and other illnesses, such as anxiety disorders, do not affect children or adolescents. Any problems they have are just a part of growing up.

Fact: Children and adolescents can develop severe mental illnesses. In the United States, one in ten children and adolescents has a mental disorder severe enough to cause impairment. However, only about 20 percent of these children receive needed treatment. Left untreated, these problems can get worse. Anyone talking about suicide should be taken very seriously.

Myth: Addiction is a lifestyle choice and shows a lack of willpower. People with a substance abuse problem are morally weak or “bad”.

Fact: Addiction is a disease that generally results from changes in brain chemistry. It has nothing to do with being a “bad” person.

Myth: Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), formerly known as “shock treatment,” is painful and barbaric.

Fact: Modern ECT has given a new lease on life to many people who suffer from severe and debilitating depression. It is used when other treatments such as psychotherapy or medication fail or cannot be used. Patients who receive ECT are asleep and under anesthesia, so they do not feel anything.

Great Moments in Science – Schizophrenia & Split-Personalty (ABC.net.au)

Myth: Schizophrenia is caused by bad parenting, and lack of moral fibre.

Fact: The straight answer is that we still don’t fully understand the causes of schizophrenia. We do know that there is a genetic component, and that there are some poorly-understood environmental and biological triggers.

People with schizophrenia are unstable and violent, and could go “wild” without any warning.

Fact: The vast majority of schizophrenics are not a threat to others, just like the vast majority of non-schizophrenics.

You can never recover from schizophrenia.

Fact: To the contrary, many cases are treatable. Indeed, hope in a recovery is part of the treatment.

Schizophrenics are mentally retarded.

Fact: Nope, schizophrenia and mental retardation are entirely different conditions. Schizophrenia certainly can cause problems with abstract thinking and concentration, but it does not lower your intelligence.

Schizophrenia is caused by witchcraft, or evil spirits, or demonic possession.

Fact: Nope. Neither is schizophrenia God’s punishment for the sins of a family, nor is it a result of unrequited love.

BBC – Health Conditions – Schizophrenia

Myth: Schizophrenics kill other people

Fact: People with mental illness, including schizophrenia, are no more likely to kill complete strangers than any other individuals are, and are far more likely to hurt themselves than others. Sadly there are occasional deaths when schizophrenics act in a deluded state. With better medical care these deaths could be avoided, but 95 per cent of homicides are committed by ‘normal’ people with no mental illness. The public are more at risk from drunks and people on drugs.

Neither has there been a wave of killings since people with schizophrenia were abandoned to their fate under ‘care in the community’. Research shows that killings by people with mental illness have fallen by half since the 1980s.

Myth: schizophrenia is caused by bad parenting or stress

Fact: Not that long ago there was a fashionable theory that schizophrenia was the result of bad parenting. This completely unfounded idea put many families, already deeply distressed by their loved one’s illness, through additional torment.

Neither does stress cause schizophrenia – although very intense stress such as moving home may trigger an episode. In younger people, schizophrenia sometimes seems to start after they’ve taken drugs, especially after a bad trip. But drugs don’t cause the illness – they merely bring it to light.

The cause of schizophrenia isn’t yet fully understood but there’s a genetic link (one in ten schizophrenics have a parent with the illness). If an identical twin develops schizophrenia, the other one probably will too.

Strangely, schizophrenia tends to be more common among people born in late winter and there may be other risks factors which lay the basis for the condition while a baby is in the womb (explained in greater scientific detail here). These support the idea that there may be some abnormal brain development (possibly related to maternal viral infections) which leads to the condition.

Myth: schizophrenics have a split personality

Fact: People with schizophrenia don’t have two or more different ‘personalities’ which they alternate between. We all tend to act in different ways at different times – it’s part of human nature. Many people use the term schizophrenic to mean having very mixed feelings about something – but this too is part of human nature and better described as ambivalence.

What tends to happen in schizophrenia is that a person’s thoughts, feelings and actions don’t all match. What they say may seem out of keeping with what they’re doing, while they might laugh at something very sad, for example. Symptoms are usually divided into two types – positive and negative symptoms.

Positive symptoms: abnormal experiences – such as delusions and hallucinations – make the person feel as though they’re being taken over by some outside force, such as aliens, computers or evil spirits.
Negative symptoms: loss of normal behaviour, including emotions, energy, interest, creativity and activity.

Myth: schizophrenia can’t be treated

Fact: Treatments for schizophrenia continue to improve, and many people manage to control their symptoms well with medication. New drugs are helping. But medication isn’t the only answer – it rarely treats every symptom completely and many people have to cope with side effects. Others need more intensive daily support, in the form of sheltered housing, day care and help with employment.

Unfortunately, schizophrenia often begins just as a young person is building their life and career, when it can wreak maximum havoc by interrupting study, work and relationships. But the way the illness is managed in the early stages may be critical in reducing long-term problems. Many people aren’t diagnosed for up to three years after the onset of clearly recognisable symptoms.

The following poem, reflecting on an acute crisis, is one among many in the creative discussion area for people with schizophrenia at www.schizophrenia.com. There are also chat rooms for issues such as symptoms, or school and work problems.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.