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Schizophrenia Awareness Week: Myths and Facts

illustration of man's head with puzzle piecesSchizophrenia is a brain disorder that, as of 2009, affects about 1% of the global population and about 1.2% of Americans.

Schizophrenia is characterized by hallucinations (feeling, seeing, or healing something that is not present) and/or delusions (false beliefs that are disconnected from reality). It is a serious and chronic mental illness that can be debilitating without the right treatment. Without clinical support, it is very difficult for someone with schizophrenia to live a balanced, healthy life.

More rare than other brain disorders, schizophrenia affects how a person thinks, feels, and acts. The disease can have severe symptoms that outsiders may find upsetting. People with schizophrenia may have difficulty managing their emotions, making decisions, and maintaining motivation for daily tasks. Schizophrenia causes disorganized thought patterns, and to others a schizophrenic individual may seem disconnected from reality. Although they may be irritable or withdrawn, it’s important to remember that people with schizophrenia are very rarely violent.

For those living with schizophrenia, the disease can be disruptive, chaotic, and isolating. Individuals suffering from schizophrenia are at a higher risk for suicide. It’s estimated that 10% of people with schizophrenia will complete suicide in the first 10 years of the illness.

For this reason: creating awareness around schizophrenia is crucial. Help is available.

There are many misconceptions about this brain disorder. Here are some myths and facts about schizophrenia that you might not know:

Myth: Schizophrenic people have multiple personalities.

Fact: Multiple personality disorder is a unique illness with different symptoms, origins, and treatment than schizophrenia. Schizophrenics experience hallucinations and delusions, which are not distinct personalities. At times, schizophrenia may be complicated by feelings of persecution or extreme suspicion (paranoid schizophrenia) or occur alongside a mood disorder like depression (schizoaffective disorder).

Myth: Bad parenting causes schizophrenia, or any other mental illness.

Fact: Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that has many origins. These include genes, trauma, and substance use. Parental mistakes do not cause schizophrenia. Remember: there is no “right way” of parenting that can guarantee a child will never experience mental illness in their lifetime. But, the support of loved ones – and their willingness to learn about the illness – is a crucial part of recovery for someone struggling with mental illness or substance use.

Myth: A person cannot recover from schizophrenia.

Fact: Schizophrenia can be difficult to treat. But, the disorder can be managed through medical treatment, psychological therapy, and social supports. With the right approach, about 25% of people will recover completely from schizophrenia. Another 50% will see great improvement in the condition. By seeking and receiving well-rounded care, the majority of people with schizophrenia will lead rich, productive lives.

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to live with schizophrenia?

Although she had experienced early, subtle symptoms from the age of five, Cecilia McGough didn’t experience audio hallucinations until high school, or visual hallucinations until college. You can learn more about the enlightening and inspirational journey of Cecilia, founder of Students with Schizophrenia, by watching her TEDx Talk.

As Cecilia’s story attests, awareness, understanding, therapy, and support can be profoundly powerful for those who live with the brain disorder called schizophrenia.

Get Help

If you or someone you know is experiencing signs of mental illness, don’t delay in reaching out for help. If you live in the WNY area, our patient support specialists at Horizon Health Services can connect you to appropriate care. Call us at (716) 831-1800. Your call is completely confidential.