9 Myths That Don’t Let Us Understand What Schizophrenia Is
There’s not a single disease that’s as mysterious as schizophrenia. And unfortunately, it causes a lot of really wild misconceptions. With the following article, we’re going to help you find the truth. It’s an interesting disease and these misconceptions make the lives of the people who suffer from it, much harder. It gets in the way of them becoming socialized and causes them to be ashamed of their disease.
The end of this Bright Side article is really interesting — and there is information on how to recognize the disease and even examples of psychological tests you can find online.
Myth № 1. The main sign of schizophrenia is having multiple personalities
A shot from “The Three Faces of Eve”.
The name of the disease can be translated as “multiple minds,” not multiple “personalities.” This means that not all schizophrenics hear voices or have multiple personalities.
The splitting of minds can lead to mood swings, for example, a person might truly hate something, and in five minutes change their mind completely. Or they may mourn a dead goldfish and stay completely calm when a person close to them dies.
Myth № 2. Schizophrenia is a rare disease
A shot from “Die Summe meiner einzelnen Teile”.
While it doesn’t sound like a lot, about 1% of the entire population has this disease, and that’s actually more common than you might think. For example, hemophilia, which many people have heard of, only affects about 1 in every 10,000 people. Schizophrenia affects about 5 in every 1000 people.
Myth № 3. People who have schizophrenia are unpredictable, which makes them a danger to society
A shot from “Benny & Joon”.
We believe this misconception thanks to Hollywood movies. Schizophrenics are not more aggressive or dangerous than those without the disease. And most of the time, they are the victim of aggression, not the aggressor.
Some schizophrenics can have anti-social behavior, but it can be controlled with medication.
Myth № 4. The worst thing about schizophrenia is the hallucinating
A shot from “The Fisher King”.
Yes, hallucinations and delusions are the most noted reasons why people act strangely and consult psychiatrists.
But nowadays, hallucinations can be easily treated. There are a plethora of medications, called antipsychotics, available to help treat these symptoms. The worst thing for people suffering with schizophrenia are the negative side-effects of their medications. They can cause drowsiness, reluctance to communicate, absence of emotions, and vegetative symptoms. They can also make it very hard for someone to reach out to people, make friends, and even work.
Myth № 5. Only schizophrenics hear voices
A shot from “Pi”.
If you hear voices in your head from time to time, it’s considered normal. It’s estimated that between 5 and 15% of adult people will experience auditory hallucinations in their lifetime. In fact, there could be more people who have them, but won’t admit it because they’re afraid other people will think they’re crazy. Hearing voices tends to happen more often when a person is stressed, exhausted, or drifting off to sleep.
Myth № 6. Schizophrenia is forever
A shot from “Soloist”.
It’s actually unpredictable. There are people whose lives change dramatically with this disease even despite treatment, but this is the minority. According to statistics, 25% (a huge amount) of affected people have only one episode of psychosis and then continue to lead a normal life without any medication.
Other patients have to take medication, but go into remission for decades and lead normal lives with jobs and families.
Other patients have some minor episodes from time to time, but this doesn’t affect their lives significantly.
Myth № 7. Schizophrenics are geniuses. They are not sick, they are different
A shot from “A Beautiful Mind”.
Does schizophrenia help in art? Yes and no. On one hand schizophrenia, just like any disease, can worsen one’s quality of life (but not always, as we found out from the previous myth).
On the other hand, there really is a similarity between the way schizophrenics and creative people think. In the thalamus (which is like the filter for our senses), there are few dopamine receptors which decrease the level of signal filtration. The presence of these receptors is thought to provoke flashes of creativity.
Even if this is true, schizophrenia is still a disease that should be treated.
Myth № 8. Schizophrenia progresses rapidly
A shot from “Shutter Island”.
The disease progresses very slowly, and it’s impossible to notice in the beginning. The first signs look very innocent: people might have trouble with work, learning, communication, and concentration. Similar “symptoms” might be noticed even in people without the disease. When actual schizophrenic symptoms start to worsen, the affected person might start hearing voices or whispers. This is the optimal stage to treat the disease.
Very few people have a situation where schizophrenia progresses quickly after the first episode.
Myth № 9. The tests for schizophrenia, which you can find online, are nonsense
You have probably seen the one of the tests for schizophrenia as an internet meme. Asking things like “What is similar between a pencil and a boot?” might not seem like a serious question, but when it’s used in psychiatric hospitals, it can help identify the slightest changes in thinking which could indicate schizophrenia.
This is how it works: if you give a person a couple of things which are relatively easy to compare (a plane and a train), most will say what’s common between them: both are transport.
If you compare something incomparable (a pencil and a boot), most people will see no connection between them. A schizophrenic will compare the least obvious things saying something ’like both a pencil and a boot leave a trace.’
As you can see, a schizophrenic’s answers can be extremely creative. Another example of a test for schizophrenia is a Rorschach test.
What do you see in the picture above? The answers of “normal” people are always very predictable. The normal answers are usually: a bat, a moth, or Batman. Of course, you can pretend to be very creative and try to come up with some more original associations but the point of the Rorschach test is to talk about instant “unforced” associations.
A schizophrenic might see a rabbit dragging two women wearing fur coats. According to psychiatrists, these patients don’t pay enough attention to the spot itself, they spend too much time thinking about the details. For example, one patient managed to see a bat in the spot, but described it as “tired, old, and deaf”.
Even the tests you can find online aren’t necessarily nonsense, though they may sound like it.
We hope this article has made the topic a little bit clearer and opened your eyes to the difference between people that are affected with schizophrenia and people that aren’t.
Did any of the information in this article surprise you? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!
Preview photo credit openpsychometrics