8 misconceptions about schizophrenia!
Published Dec 27, 2021 • By Candice Salomé
Schizophrenia is a severe and chronic mental disorder that affects over 23 million people worldwide. The condition is characterized by distorted thought patterns, perceptions, emotions, sense of self and behavior. Nevertheless, schizophrenia is treatable.
Unfortunately, this mental illness is not well known by the general public, so it is often stigmatized and the subject of many prejudices.
We unravel the true from the false in some common misconceptions about schizophrenia below!
From Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde, to Psycho and Split, cinema and literature have nourished many terrifying clichés about schizophrenia. And people are still suspicious of this condition today.
In the collective imagination, schizophrenic patients are often violent, uncontrollable and socially withdrawn.
The term “schizophrenic” is used incorrectly in everyday language, and always has a negative connotation.
In this article, we're going to tackle the many misconceptions about schizophrenia.
Patients with schizophrenia have double personality
FALSE. In schizophrenia, there is no alternation of personalities. The disease is characterized by delusions, hallucinations, social withdrawal, disorganized behavior and thinking, and lack of motivation.
Patients' speech can be disordered and bizarre, because their emotions are not always in harmony with what they are trying to express. Thus, they can laugh in a sad situation and, on the contrary, cry in a happy one. However, they don't adopt personalities other than their own.
Patients with schizophrenia are dangerous
FALSE. This mental illness is often mentioned in the news. However, only about 1% of murderers are diagnosed with schizophrenia. This misconception is therefore very stigmatizing for them.
Schizophrenic patients are actually vulnerable: according to statistics, they become victims of assault 7 times more often than general population.
Moreover, their inner suffering is of such intensity that their aggression is turned against themselves. Almost 40% of schizophrenic patients attempt suicide in their lifetime, and 10-15% of them take their own life.
Schizophrenia is a rare disease
FALSE. According to a recent survey, a large majority of people believe that this condition affects 1 person in 10,000. However, 1 in 100 people is diagnosed.
Nevertheless, we still have the impression that this is a rare disease, because schizophrenic patients are excluded from society, so we don't meet a lot of them in our everyday life. Also, when a loved one is affected, we tend to hide the fact from people we know.
It is, however, a matter of public health. It is important to be able to take care of these patients and welcome them into society despite their mental handicap.
Patients with schizophrenia cannot work
TRUE and FALSE. Many people affected by schizophrenia are able to work, whether they do so in an ordinary or in a protected environment, thanks to the management of their disease.
Some patients cannot advance in their career, due to the severity of their symptoms, but for others, a well-suited position allows them to be integrated in real life, and can even play a determining therapeutic role.
Nevertheless, working should not be compulsory no matter what. Patients with schizophrenia tend to experience episodes of withdrawal, sometimes even delusional disorders, temporarily preventing them from working.
Patients with schizophrenia are mentally retarded
FALSE. Schizophrenia does not affect patients' intellectual capacities in any way, but rather the use of these capacities. Disorders associated with schizophrenia can interfere with certain functions such as attention, memory, learning and comprehension.
In fact, the IQ of people affected by schizophrenia varies, as in the case with the rest of the population. For example, mathematician John Forbes Nash, who won the Nobel Prize in economics in 1994, was schizophrenic.
Patients with schizophrenia mostly suffer from hallucinations
FALSE. Hallucinations are, indeed, the most visible symptoms, but they are not the only ones. Schizophrenic hallucinations are associated with delusional ideas, lack of motivation and disorganized thinking.
These hallucinations, perceived by the patient as real, can take several forms: visual, olfactory and more particularly auditory. Patients hear voices that insult and denigrate them.
However, there are forms of schizophrenia with little or no hallucinations. This disease manifests itself differently from patient to patient, with varying degrees of severity.
Social withdrawal and cognitive disorders are the most disabling manifestations of the disease. That is why the WHO ranked schizophrenia among the 10 most disabling diseases in the world.
Schizophrenia cannot be cured
FALSE. With appropriate management of the disease, including long-term treatment of a neuroleptic type, psychotherapy and psychosocial support, the symptoms of schizophrenia regress.
When the patient is taken care of in time, schizophrenia can be treated and the results are getting better and better. But, due to a significant stigmatization of the disease, to the taboo that it generates and to the ignorance of the condition, start of care and treatment is generally delayed by 18 months, on average.
In fact, those around the patient often confuse the first manifestations of the disease with an adolescent crisis. However, it is important to pay particular attention to the slightest alarming signs: withdrawal into oneself, loss of interest, dropping out of school, attention problems or insomnia. The earlier the patient is taken care of, the better are his or her chances for stabilization and remission.
Schizophrenia is caused by taking drugs
TRUE and FALSE. There is an ongoing debate around this claim. In fact, people with schizophrenia tend to consume alcohol and other psychoactive substances. But, according to scientists, making this consumption a trigger would be a hazardous shortcut. If drug use really caused schizophrenia, much more than 1% of the population would be diagnosed.
However, some epidemiological studies seem to demonstrate that large quantities of cannabis consumed by a person at risk could stimulate the development of the disease.
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