What People Don’t Understand About Schizophrenia

Many have preconceived ideas about what schizophrenia is. Hollywood and the media have contributed misguided interpretations of who is affected and what that illness is. But, people with this mental illness are not violent shooters or twisted villains. They are regular people, like you and me. 

Schizophrenia is an illness that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. Someone with schizophrenia can lose touch with reality through hallucinations or paranoia, which causes them distress. 

Despite the many studies and resources about schizophrenia, the general public knows very little about the illness and how it presents itself. Most believe that it precludes patients from becoming members of society, which causes them to become scary and withdrawn pariahs. These ideas could not be more wrong. 

  • Schizophrenia affects many people. 

Most people do not realize how many are affected by schizophrenia. In fact, some symptoms can present themselves during adolescence. Schizophrenia affects approximately 3.5 million people, between the ages of 16-25, in the United States. Although people with a genetic predisposition for schizophrenia are more likely to develop it, environmental factors and brain structure also play a significant role. For example, highly stressful situations, poverty, substance abuse, and trauma can all trigger psychotic episodes. It is not a condition that solely afflicts older men. 

Though a 2004 study done by the British National Survey of Psychiatric Morbidity, Bebbington found that people who met the criteria very approximately 15 times likely to have suffered sexual abuse, it is not a definitive criterion for developing the illness. 

  • Violence is not a symptom of schizophrenia.

Contrary to popular belief, most people who have schizophrenia are not violent. In fact, some schizophrenics are often victims of violence. They are at 14 times likely to experience victimization in a violent setting. 

Some common symptoms of schizophrenia are:

  • delusions
  • hallucination
  • slurred speech
  • abnormal or disorganized motor behavior

 It is important to remember that these symptoms present themself differently in patients. According to the DSM-5‘s new guidelines, schizophrenia is a spectrum disorder. Meaning that patients usually experience some of the symptoms. Not all. Some symptoms include “flat” affect, difficulty processing information, disorganized thinking/speech, or trouble focusing. However, people with schizophrenia should not be defined by their symptoms.

  • Stigma 

Despite appearances, people with schizophrenia want to be involved but often resist for various reasons. However, fear of rejection or stigma can cause people to shy away from social involvement. Schizophrenic patients are vulnerable people who experience emotions deeply. But, unfortunately, most of them are scared. Scared that their emotions will lead them into psychosis. It is a constant struggle to maintain a balance and a sense of reality. 

  • Antidepressants are not always recommended.

Though there are medications to treat schizophrenia, talk therapy can also help. Cognitive-behavioral therapy and cognitive remediation can help. 

Living with schizophrenia is not how Hollywood or the media has portrayed it. Some people have stated that everything feels intense when you have schizophrenia. So, please be considerate. If you or someone you know suffers from schizophrenia, reach out to a mental health professional. 

Take care! 

Additional resources: 

Burke, Allie. “I Don’t Hate You; I’m Schizophrenic.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 24 Feb. 2016, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/paper-souls/201602/i-dont-hate-you-im-schizophrenic. 

Hendrick, Mike. 5 Things Everyone Should Know About Schizophrenia. 3 Dec. 2015, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/living-schizophrenia-one-man-s-journey/201512/5-things-everyone-should-know-about-schizophrenia. 

Meridien Research. 10 Things You May Not Have Known About Schizophrenia. 29 Mar. 2019, meridienresearch.net/10-things-may-known-schizophrenia/. 

Nielssen, Olav et al. “Homicide of strangers by people with a psychotic illness.” Schizophrenia bulletin vol. 37,3 (2011): 572-9. doi:10.1093/schbul/sbp112

NIH. Schizophrenia. May 2020, link: www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/schizophrenia/index.shtml. 

Read, J et al. “Childhood trauma, psychosis, and schizophrenia: a literature review with theoretical and clinical implications.” Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica vol. 112,5 (2005): 330-50. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0447.2005.00634.x

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Impact of the DSM-IV to DSM-5 Changes on the National Survey on Drug Use and Health [Internet]. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2016 Jun. Table 3.22, DSM-IV to DSM-5 Schizophrenia Comparison. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK519704/table/ch3.t22/

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