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Schizophrenia myth bust

It’s Schizophrenia Awareness Day, and what better way to raise some awareness than a myth bust! It’s a widely misunderstood condition, and the many misbeliefs about schizophrenia build stigma.

Stigma prevents 40% of people with mental health conditions from seeking support and treatment, and can worsen the psychological welfare of many - so it’s super important to unravel the myths and spread truths!

Schizophrenia is a serious mental health disorder that affects around 1 in 100 people. Affecting the ability to think and act clearly, the brain often sends signals that can cause a person to hear or see things that aren’t really there (hallucinations and delusions), although a common symptom not everyone will experience these. For someone with schizophrenia, it can become very difficult to tell what is and isn’t real, which impacts behaviour, while also affecting decision making and emotional regulation. It’s a very individualistic condition, meaning individuals can have a variety of symptoms, but with very personal experiences.

4 myth busts to crack down on the stigma:

Those with schizophrenia have multiple personalities

A common misconception of the condition is that people have multiple personalities, or spilt personalities, which means a person acts like two (or more) different people. The hallucinations and delusions can cause a person to hear voices in their head or get confused about their reality, which may lead an outsider to assume they have multiple personalities, a different mental health condition, with different symptoms and experiences.

“When I was hallucinating I would often hear voices that would just chip away at my insecurities and it made me want to hide away, it wasn’t anyone’s voice perse just a voice that wasn’t real.” Emily, diagnosed with Schizophrenia in 2017

People with schizophrenia are violent and dangerous

Widely down to the portrayal of mental health conditions in the media, film and TV - it’s rarely the good guys that have a mental health condition, is it? - many feel scared of or around those in fear that they are violent, aggressive or dangerous. In fact, those with a mental health condition are more likely to be the victim of violence, and more likely to cause harm to themselves than others. Now, it doesn’t mean those with the condition are saints (is anyone?), but when there is violence or harm there’s often another cause like childhood behavioural issues or substance abuse, not the condition itself.

“I used to see figures following me in the street so I’d run away, bystanders probably thought I was running from them but I was running from my own mind.” Anwar, diagnosed with Schizophrenia in 2010

Those with schizophrenia belong in a mental health facility

Mental health facilities exist to support those with mental health conditions who cannot support themselves independently - for example, someone with severe depression who is not able to care for themselves independently may move into a mental health facility to receive the supported living they need to manage their illness. As schizophrenia is a severe and serious mental health condition we may jump to assume the diagnosis means inability to lead an independent life. For some this is true, but it’s also very possible for someone with schizophrenia to manage and control symptoms and be able to lead independent lives as anyone else.

Cecelia McGough, an astronomy and astrophysics major at Penn State University, has schizophrenia. In her TEDx talk, she reveals how she manages her rather obtrusive and frightening hallucination of a clown similar to Stephen Kings ‘IT’ clown:

“How I’m able to ignore him is, I just don’t look at him. But I'm able to know where that hallucination is in peripheral vision because of the bright colours of red and white. But you would never know that I’m hallucinating. The clown is actually in the audience today.” [1]

You can’t recover from schizophrenia

Schizophrenia doesn’t really go away, like with many other mental health conditions - such as bipolar or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) - but it can be managed and controlled and when effective treatments are used, those with schizophrenia can maintain and lead regular lifestyles as anyone without the condition, and many do successfully!

"I'm a games developer, own my own home, and have a fairly active social life. I'm a regular guy and unless I told you, you wouldn't know I had schizophrenia." Raiden, diagnosed in 2001

Before we go: Schizophrenia is severe, it can be frightening and take a huge toll on the psychological welfare of those experiencing it. It is not widely understood and the misbeliefs surrounding the condition lead to a lack of treatment and support for those with a diagnosis.

With more understanding, awareness and talking, the more we break down the stigma surrounding it, allowing people to seek the support needed, the more able people are to live as usual with the condition. Spread the word, use your voice and hashtag #schizophreniaawarenessday!





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