Schizophrenia is perhaps the most misunderstood of all mental illnesses, mostly due to the sheer amount of misinformation out there. Some of this is due to movies and TV, while some can be attributed to stereotypes about mental illness. There are several cultural and demographic myths regarding schizophrenia — these are the four most common.
Myth #1: People with Schizophrenia All Have the Same Symptoms
There are many different types of schizophrenia, and they can all affect a person in different ways. Symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia, such as delusions that someone is out to get the sufferer, are different from catatonic schizophrenia symptoms, which include a lack of emotion and decreased motivation.
Mental illnesses affect people differently. It is possible to encounter two sufferers with the same type of schizophrenia who behave differently. Schizophrenia isn’t all about being paranoid and hearing voices.
Myth #2: Women are More Likely to Have Schizophrenia than Men
Although some people believe women are more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses than men, studies show that the rate of schizophrenia is two to three times higher in men than women. This could be because women are more likely to seek out treatment for their mental health than men, but also because there are genetic components of the disorder as well.
This myth has some unfortunate implications and side effects. Schizophrenia is a serious illness that requires treatment and medication. Men and women who do not receive this treatment are more likely to become a danger to themselves and others. There is still a serious stigma in our culture against men who seek help for their mental health issues. This barrier can lead to severe consequences when men do not receive the treatment and therapy they need.
Myth #3: People with Schizophrenia have Multiple Personalities
This is another myth that refuses to die. In fact, according to a 2008 study by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 64% of people still believe schizophrenia means having multiple personalities. While people with multiple personalities do exist, most do not live with schizophrenia. The condition people are actually thinking about is called dissociative identity disorder (previously multiple personality disorder).
Part of the reason why people believe schizophrenia is the same as dissociative identity disorder is because schizophrenia derives from a Greek word meaning “split mind.” The “split mind” aspect refers to how people with schizophrenia have minds that tend to isolate them from the rest of the world, as if they were split off. The phrase doesn’t mean the mind itself is split.
Myth #4: People with Schizophrenia are Dangerous
Thanks in part to movies, TV, and other forms of pop culture that portray all people with mental illness as unpredictable criminals and killers, this is one of the most common myths about schizophrenia. The vast majority of those who live with the illness aren’t violent at all. According to studies of people with schizophrenia who have committed violent crimes, only 23% of those offenses were directly related to their symptoms.
With proper treatment and medication, it is possible to live a full life with schizophrenia. Many famous people such as football star and sports analyst Lionel Aldridge, former Fleetwood Mac guitarist Peter Green, and mathematician John Nash have all lived with schizophrenia. Life was often difficult for them, yet they learned to thrive.
There is hope for those who live with this frightening yet misunderstood condition. By combatting the stigma of the illness, we can help them be at peace and free of judgment.
Bio: Mike Jones is a health and fitness writer. He hopes people will stop stigmatizing others dealing with a mental illness and start fighting against common schizophrenia misconceptions. More of his work can be found on Twitter.