Misconception #: Violence & Danger
Reality: Its actually rare for someone with schizophrenia to be violent. Its actually much more likely for someone with schizophrenia to be the victim of violence. Not the instigator.
Individuals with schizophrenia are often depicted in popular culture as sadistic, unpredictable, and violent. Granted, individuals with schizophrenia do commit crimes but most patients are nonviolent.
Sadly, the assumption that schizophrenics are dangerous contributes heavily to the disorders stigma.
Tip : Understand The Role Of Medication
If youve been diagnosed with schizophrenia, you will almost certainly be offered antipsychotic medication. The two main groups of medications used for the treatment of schizophrenia are the older or typical antipsychotic medications and the newer atypical antipsychotic medications. Its important to understand that medication is just one component of schizophrenia treatment.
Medication is not a cure for schizophrenia and only treats some of the symptoms. Antipsychotic medication reduces psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, and disordered thinking. But is much less helpful for treating symptoms of schizophrenia such as social withdrawal, lack of motivation, and lack of emotional expressiveness.
You should not have to put up with disabling side effects. Schizophrenia medication can have very unpleasanteven disablingside effects such as drowsiness, lack of energy, uncontrollable movements, weight gain, and sexual dysfunction. Your quality of life is important, so talk to your doctor if youre bothered by side effects.
Never reduce or stop medication on your own.
Sudden or unsupervised dosage changes are dangerous, and can trigger a schizophrenia relapse or other complications. If youre having trouble with your medication or feel like you dont need to take it, talk to your doctor or someone else that you trust.
There Are Positive And Negative Symptoms Of Schizophrenia
When Paul Eugen Bleuler coined the term, he also came up with a list of positive, negative, and cognitive symptoms of the disorder. Positive and negative in this case donât mean good and bad. Positive is used to describe the characteristics of schizophrenia that shouldnât occur in a healthy person, like paranoid thoughts and hallucinations. Symptoms that fall under the negative label include healthy traits that are missing from patients, like motivation, interest in life, and coherent speech. The last category, cognitive symptoms, covers disorganized thinking, gaps in memory, and other signs of mental dysfunction. Doctors still use the system devised by Bleuler to treat patients today.
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Discovering The Truth About Schizophrenia
Because the illness may cause unusual, inappropriate and sometimes unpredictable and disorganized behavior, people who are not effectively treated are often shunned and the targets of social prejudice. The apparent erratic behavior is often caused by the delusions and hallucinations that are symptoms of schizophrenia. Along with medication, psychosocial rehabilitation and other community-based support can help those with schizophrenia go on to lead meaningful and satisfying lives. A lack of appropriate services devoted to individuals living with schizophrenia has left many improperly placed in jails and prisons without the help they need.
Schizophrenia is often mischaracterized as an untreatable disease associated with violent behavior and many untrue and unfortunate stereotypes have developed, which led to mental disorders stigma. Most individuals living with schizophrenia are not violent risk of violence is associated primarily with factors such as psychotic symptoms or substance abuse. Even then, violent behavior is generally uncommon and the overall contribution of schizophrenia to violence in a community is small. When engaging in schizophrenia treatment, the illness is a manageable. The varying nature of each case though means that mental health recovery for every individual is different.
Myth: Mental Illness Is Incurable And Lifelong
Fact: With the right kind of help, treated appropriately and early, most people recover fully and have no further episodes of illness. For others, mental illness may recur throughout their lives and require ongoing treatment. This is the same as many physical illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease. Like these other long-term health conditions, mental illness can be managed so that individuals live life to the fullest.
Although some people become disabled as a result of ongoing mental illness, many who experience even very major episodes of illness live full and productive lives.
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How Is Schizophrenia Diagnosed
Diagnosing schizophrenia includes outlining all of the individuals symptoms and making sure that these symptoms arent due to a medical condition, substance abuse, or a side effect from the medication. This typically involves:
- Psychiatric evaluation. A primary care physician or mental health professional conducts an evaluation of the individuals mental status by observing their appearance and behavior and asking questions about their moods, delusions, hallucinations, and whether theyre taking any prescription or recreational drugs. Some mental health disorders like schizophrenia tend to run in families, so the individual may also be asked about personal and family medical history.
- Physical exam. A physical exam is conducted to further rule out other medical conditions and pinpoint any co-occurring disorders.
- Screenings. These may include imaging studies such as a CT scan or an MRI to identify brain abnormalities. The doctor may also screen for drugs and alcohol and conduct other tests to make sure that the symptoms arent caused by a similar mental health disorder.
- Diagnostic criteria. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders outlines information and guidelines for treatment for recognized disorders and is the standard for diagnosing a wide array of mental health disorders, including schizophrenia. A doctor or mental health care professional may consult this manual to see if their patients symptoms align with the symptoms for a given disorder.
What Are The Symptoms Of Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia has a large variety of symptoms and can seem very different in one person from another. If its not treated, schizophrenia may lead to long-term psychosis.
The main symptoms of schizophrenia are:
- confused thinking: thoughts are jumbled and the person cant make sense of what other people are saying.
Someone with schizophrenia will have symptoms for more than 6 months. They may have unusual ideas or beliefs about themselves or the world around them, which may be frightening.
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What Can I Do To Manage Schizophrenia
People deal with their experience in different ways. You might need to try different things before finding something that works.
You could join a support group. A support group is where people come together to share information, experiences and give each other support. Hearing about the experiences of others can help you feel understood. This may help you feel less alone and boost your self-confidence.
You might be able to find a local group by searching online. Rethink Mental Illness have support groups in some areas. You can find out what is available in your area, or get help to set up your own support group if you follow this link:
Or you can call our advice service on 0808 801 0525 for more information.
Recovery colleges are part of the NHS. They offer free courses about mental health to help you manage your experiences. They can help you to take control of your life and become an expert in your own wellbeing and recovery. You can usually self-refer to a recovery college. But the college may tell your care team.
Unfortunately, recovery colleges are not available in all areas. To see if there is a recovery college in your area you can use a search engine such as Google. Or you can call our advice service on 0808 801 0525 for more information.
Peer support through the NHS
- side effects,
- recognising and coping with symptoms,
- what to do in a crisis,
- meeting other people who can support you, and recovery.
Myth: People With Mental Health Problems Are Violent And Unpredictable
Fact: The vast majority of people with mental health problems are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. Most people with mental illness are not violent and only 3%5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness. In fact, people with severe mental illnesses are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population. You probably know someone with a mental health problem and don’t even realize it, because many people with mental health problems are highly active and productive members of our communities.
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Managing Life With Schizophrenia
Some people living with schizophrenia find that the following strategies can help prevent episodes of psychosis, help them feel better in between episodes, or feel more in control:
- learning more about schizophrenia
- finding an individual definition of recovery, whether its reducing symptoms or working on other parts of life like relationships or employment
- looking after physical health including getting regular check-ups
- accessing peer support
- learning strategies to minimise stress
- developing a Relapse prevention plan including identifying early warning signs, what to do when these occur, and who to contact
- advance care planning may also be an option for times when a person doesnt have decision-making capacity. The nature of these statements varies between states.
Every person will need to find what works for them and its normal for this to take time. Check out our lived experience tips for managing life with schizophrenia.
Other Mental Illnesses Are Related To Schizophrenia
Schizophrenic patients are at a greater risk for a slew of different mental illnesses. Rates of depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder are all higher among people with schizophrenia. Symptoms of schizophrenia can overlap with these disorders: Suicidal thoughts and a lack of motivation and interest in life are schizophrenic symptoms that are also hallmarks of depression.
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Other Medication You Might Need To Take
If you experience psychosis, you may experience other mental health issues, like depression, mania, anxiety, and the negative symptoms of schizophrenia.
So you may be prescribed anti-anxiety medications, anti-depressants or mood stabilisers along with your antipsychotics. This is relatively common the medications are often used together.
Other Causes Of Schizophrenia
Along with genetics, other potential causes of schizophrenia include:
- The environment. Being exposed to viruses or toxins, or experiencing malnutrition before birth, can increase the risk of schizophrenia.
- Brain chemistry. Issues with brain chemicals, such as the neurotransmitters dopamine and glutamate, may contribute to schizophrenia.
- Substance use. Teen and young adult use of mind-altering drugs may increase the risk of schizophrenia.
- Immune system activation. Schizophrenia can also be connected to autoimmune diseases or inflammation.
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Myth: Bad Parenting Is What Causes Schizophrenia
Years ago, it was believed that the mother or both parents were responsible if the child developed schizophrenia, Dr. Rego explains. While there is a genetic susceptibilitythe disorder tends to run in familiesthere is absolutely no evidence that it is caused by how a person is parented, he says.
Plus, even if your parent has schizophrenia your chances of getting it are less than 25 percent, Dr. Ferrando explains.
So what does cause it? Rather than a single gene for schizophrenia, its likely that various genes, as well as environmental factors, are responsible, according to the American Psychological Association.
Environmental factors that may trigger the onset of schizophrenia can range from extreme academic stress to substance abuse. Dr. Ferrando says. We know that extreme environmental stress like these situations can trigger the onset of schizophrenia, he says.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, it may feel scary. Understanding the reality of the disorder not only helps to erase the stigma surrounding the condition but also frees you up to focus on an effective treatment plan.
Pleiotropy And Overlap With Bipolar Disorder And Autism
Pleiotropy refers to the common phenomenon of variation in a gene simultaneously affecting different phenotypes. While examples abound in model organisms , evidence for pleiotropy in humans is also available, such as genes for body weight and height 150, and also for disorders such as T2D 151 and prostate cancer 152. The molecular genetic overlaps between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and between schizophrenia and autism are consistent with pleiotropy but shared genetic loci may actually determine an aspect shared by two disorders such as psychosis in schizophrenia and in bipolar disorder 153.
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Finding Mental Health Services
There are a few different options available for clinical treatment. Your choice will depend on cost, severity of your symptoms and convenience, but not all services are available everywhere. For people in rural and remote areas, treatment options can be reduced, involve long travel, or alternatively can be delivered through telehealth services. Ask your GP for advice about the best options available for you.
Why Is Schizophrenia Misdiagnosed
To be diagnosed with schizophrenia, an individual has to have at least two of these symptoms, at least one of which has to be among the top three:
- Disorganized speech
- Disorganized or catatonic behavior
- Other negative behaviors such as limited or no changes in tone of voice or facial expressions, a lack of personal hygiene, or a lack of motivation to participate in recreational activities
While these symptoms are tell-tale signs of schizophrenia, they are also associated with a broad range of other disorders. Hallucinations, for example, are considered by many to be the most prominent symptom of schizophrenia. However, they may also occur with migraines, brain tumors, epilepsy, PTSD, sleep disorders, and drug use. Disorganized speech may be linked to anxiety, depression, a traumatic brain injury, or a mood disorder. Depression may be connected to a lack of personal hygiene or motivation to engage with once-enjoyed activities. Nutritional deficiencies, metabolic disorders, hyperthyroidism, and even allergies can all mimic schizophrenia.
Self-diagnosing schizophrenia is even more challenging. Some of the characteristics of schizophrenia, as well as disorders that mimic it, are poor insight, delusions, hallucinations and difficulty with thought processes. These can all cloud the individuals judgment and make them unable to accurately evaluate their own mental status.
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Myth: A Person With Schizophrenia Can Seem Perfectly Normal One Moment And Change Into A Different Person The Next
Reality: A sudden dramatic change of character in individuals with schizophrenia is not the usual scenario, Dr. Rego says. In fact, its common for the signs and symptoms of this mental disorder to surface over time. There are often soft signs that the illness is going to take root, Dr. Rego says. In the typical progression of the illness, a person may first become flat, isolate more frequently, and decrease their participation in activities. Then a psychotic break could occurfrom a stressor such as starting college, Dr. Rego says. So it is more of a slow progression, with a waxing and waning course that occurs over months and years, he explains.
Fighting Mental Disorders Stigma: Dispelling Myths
There have been so many misconceptions about schizophrenia throughout history that its best to begin by looking at what schizophrenia isnt.
MYTH: Schizophrenia is the same as split or multiple personality.
FACT: The origins of the word schizophrenia have contributed to this confusion. In an effort to describe the mismatch he observed between the feelings and thoughts of people experiencing this medical condition, Eugen Bleuler, a Swiss psychiatrist at the turn of the twentieth century, proposed the terms schizo and phrene to capture this juxtaposition. Many people have confused this term with so called split or multiple personality , but there is no relation between the two conditions.
MYTH: Schizophrenia is caused by bad parenting or personal weakness.
FACT. Schizophrenia is a medical illness caused by a variety of factors including genetics, stress, substance use and trauma, among others.
MYTH: People living with schizophrenia are violent.
FACT: Almost all people living with schizophrenia are not dangerous when they are engaged in schizophrenia treatment, although the behavior of a person in need of such mental health help can be unsettling or unusual. Violence is a noteworthy risk for some people living with schizophrenia who are not in treatment and who also have co-occurring alcohol or drug use problems.
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Confused Thinking And Psychosis
During an episode of psychosis a persons thoughts become confused. Words and ideas lose their meaning or take on meanings that make no sense.
These disturbances in thinking can affect a person’s ability to concentrate, remember things and make plans. Confused thinking can continue, even after the psychotic episode has ended.
You may be able to tell that someone is having an episode of psychosis through changes in their speech. These may include:
- speaking very quickly or slowly
- changing topics frequently
- using the wrong words to describe things
- making up words.
Misconception #: Schizophrenia Causes Sudden Mood Swings
Reality: A sudden dramatic change of character in individuals with schizophrenia is not the usual scenario.
Its actually more common for the signs and symptoms of this mental disorder to surface over time. In the typical progression of the illness, a person may first become withdrawn, isolate more frequently, and diminish participation in activities.
Then a stressor such as beginning school, entering a relationship, or any number of stressful events could cause a psychotic break could occur Symptoms can wax and wane with a slow roll over the course of months or years.
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Myth: People With A Mental Illness Should Be Isolated From The Community
Fact: Most people with a mental illness recover quickly and do not need hospital care. Others may have short admissions to hospital for treatment. Only a very small number of people with mental illness need hospital care. Improvements in treatment over recent decades mean that most people live in their communities, and there is no need for the confinement and isolation that was commonly used in the past.