Knowing What’s Real And What’s Fiction

Knowing what’s real and what’s fiction can help eliminate common misunderstandings.

Violent outburst, multiple personalities and career instability are just a few of the myths that surround schizophrenia. 

Schizophrenia is a serious, rare and complex mental disorder currently affecting about 2 million American adults. 

Whether or not you or someone you know has schizophrenia, it’s helpful to separate fact from fiction.


Misconception #1: Schizophrenia means you have a split personality.


This is false. Schizophrenia often involves a variety of symptoms, but not one involves multiple personalities.

Most of the population has movies or media as their only interaction with the disorder. Therefore are unable to recognize the symptoms associated with schizophrenia. Ignorantly believing that people with the disorder have “split” or multiple personalities.

The origin of the word “schizo” literally means split. However, in this case, it refers to gaps (or a splitting) in a person’s ability to think and express emotions.

A split personality, also called Dissociative Identity Disorder or Multiple Personality Disorder, is quite distinct from schizophrenia.

There is a split for those with schizo, between reality and fantasy. The person may experience delusions and hallucinations while emotions may become inappropriate.

There is confusion about who is real and what is not.

Many people incorrectly believe that individuals with schizophrenia only suffer from hallucinations and delusions.

This is not surprising. Psychotic symptoms are unusual and often frightening. And so popular culture focuses on these more than other symptoms associated with schizophrenia.

Schizophrenics are known to hear voices and see unreal things. But they also suffer from negative symptoms such as low motivation, difficulty forming social connections.

They experience a lack of pleasure in everyday activities. They rarely speak and have difficulty paying attention, according to the American Psychological Association.


Misconception #2: Violence & Danger

Reality: It’s actually rare for someone with schizophrenia to be violent. It’s 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 disorder’s stigma.


Misconception #3: People With Schizophrenia Can’t Hold A Job.

Reality: Stable individuals can function quite well when staying current on medication with their medication and utilizing psychosocial treatment.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that as many as half of the two million Americans with schizophrenia can improve significantly. Or even recover completely if they get treatment.

Working a job can actually help people recover from schizophrenia. It can serve as a form of vocational rehabilitation.

Independence and empowerment can be an important component of the recovery process.

But what makes recovery truly possible is psychosocial support. Psychotherapy, family education, and self-help groups can help those with schizophrenia cope and regain their lives.

Additional treatments like social skills counseling, job training, and vocational counseling also can be useful.  

Applying for disability can also be a consideration.

Misconception #4: Schizophrenia Causes Sudden Mood Swings.

Reality: A sudden dramatic change of character in individuals with schizophrenia is not the usual scenario.  

It’s 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.


Misconception #5: Plan On Long Term Hospitalization.

Reality: Appropriate treatment today may include a combination of outpatient care, acute hospitalization, and longer-term hospitalization when needed.

In cases where family support and financial resources are available, many patients still need inpatient treatment.

Recently the treatment model for schizophrenia is beginning to move away from longer-term hospitalization in exchange for more modern outpatient treatment.  

Some patients benefit from going to a day program or a partial day hospital, where they can receive daily treatment but still maintain some day-to-day normalcy.

Therapy may vary from individual to group therapy and the medication of choice is usually second-generation antipsychotic agents (i.e. aripiprazole, clozapine, and risperidone).

Time can vary from weeks to months in longer-care settings and depends on heartily on how the patient is progressing.


Misconception #6: Schizophrenia Is Untreatable.

Historically, in films and times in the past—people with schizophrenia were frequently hauled off to institutions, often left to live the rest of their lives in isolation.

In many ways, developing a severe mental disorder was the same as receiving a life sentence in prison for a crime you didn’t know you were committing.

Because of this, many people wrongly accepted and believed that schizophrenia was untreatable and the only option for their loved one was institutionalization.

Although it’s true that schizophrenia not curable, it can be successfully treated thru medication, rehabilitation and psychosocial therapies. Individuals with schizophrenia can go on to lead independent and productive lives.

In fact, with proper treatment, many people with schizophrenia appear to be completely healthy.


Misconception #7: Schizophrenia Is The Result Of Bad Parenting

Once again, we’re discussing false ideas of the past. It was once believed that the mother or both parents were responsible if the child developed schizophrenia.

While genetic susceptibility could play a role as the disorder tends to run in families, there is absolutely NO evidence schizophrenia is the result of parental practices.

So what is the cause of Schizophrenia then?

According to the American Psychological Association, various genes, as well as environmental factors, are responsible,

Environmental factors that may trigger the onset of schizophrenia can range from extreme academic stress to substance abuse.


There Is Hope And Healing Through Treatment

Though modern discoveries and understandings are shedding more light onto this mysterious disorder.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, it may feel scary. Especially with all the commonly believed misconceptions and myths we’ve discussed.  

However, understanding the truth surrounding this disorder not only assists in diffusing the stigma of schizophrenia but also frees you up to seek out and pursue an effective treatment plan.