With the downward spiral of TV celebrity Amanda Bynes, the world’s focus is on schizophrenia. While the condition ranks high in the public’s consciousness, our collective understanding of it is low. There are a number of falsehoods about people with schizophrenia based on the false assumption that the experience of each schizophrenic is the same.
Here are some myths and realities of schizophrenia:
• Myth: People with schizophrenia have “split personalities.”
• Reality: This is a symptom of a completely different illness.
“Split personalities” or “multiple personalities” are not a symptom of schizophrenia; in fact, these symptoms indicate a different mental illness called Dissociative Identity Disorder. The “split mind” of the schizophrenic refers to the dissociation between thought and feeling. “A person may be telling a very sad story while smiling, or may be afraid of things that are completely mundane,” says Duckworth. A person with schizophrenia may react inappropriately to situations but does not mean he or she has multiple personalities.
• Myth: People with schizophrenia are dangerous.
• Reality: Some people with schizophrenia may be dangerous, but most are not.
Some people with schizophrenia may be prone to violent outbursts. There is evidence that suggests psychoses can fuel violent behaviors, but the actual numbers don’t justify a fear of all people with schizophrenia. In fact, people with schizophrenia are in greater danger of being victimized by the general population.
• Myth: People with schizophrenia will never get better.
• Reality: Many people recover.
“Symptoms sometimes lose their intensity,” Duckworth says. Most people can find some form of relief from symptoms. Up to half of patients suffering with schizophrenia can experience significant or even complete recovery with treatment.