Rethink Mental Illness dispel the most common misconceptions around this not so rare illness
Schizophrenia is perhaps one of the most misunderstood mental illnesses out there, largely due to misrepresentation in TV and film and sadly, the World Health Organisation estimates that half of people living with schizophrenia won’t receive any care for the condition. We spoke to Rethink Mental Illness to help uncover thetruth about schizophrenia.
1: Schizophrenia is very rare
Schizophrenia is more common than people think, affecting about 1 in every 100 people, equating to roughly 21 million people worldwide. The condition quite often occurs in young adults, but can affect people of any age. It is not known exactly what causes schizophrenia, but it is thought that it is often a combination of factors. These could be anything from a stressful event such as bereavement, to social factors including an urban upbringing, genetics or our brain-chemistry.
Myth 2: Schizophrenia is just about hearing voices
People commonly associate schizophrenia with hearing voices. Whist auditory hallucinations (hearing voices or other sounds) are one of the most common symptoms of the condition, there are in fact eight types of schizophrenia, each with differing characteristics. Symptoms commonly associated with schizophrenia include hallucinations, delusions and disorganised thinking – where people can talk at great speed, and what is said may not make sense to other people. Some less known symptoms of schizophrenia include losing interest in socialising or hobbies, a change in sleep patterns, or a lack of motivation.
Myth 3: People with schizophrenia have a split personality
This is one of the most common misconceptions about schizophrenia. The misunderstanding may in part stem from the fact that the word ‘schizophrenia’ comes from two Greek words “split” and “mind”, which has undoubtedly caused a lot of confusion when it comes to understanding the symptoms of the illness. Whilst people with schizophrenia can experience symptoms that can affect their thought processes and their perceptions of the world around them, such as delusions and hallucinations, they do not have two separate personalities.
Myth 4: People with schizophrenia can’t recover
Although there is no cure for schizophrenia, approximately 30% of people will have a lasting recovery and about 1 in 5 people will show significant improvement. Around half of people diagnosed will have a long-term illness. What this means will be different for each individual, but it could involve further episodes of becoming unwell as well as periods of being better.
Myth 5: People with schizophrenia are dangerous
Violence is not a symptom of schizophrenia, but unfortunately the media has played a huge part in perpetuating this misconception. People with schizophrenia are actually far more likely to be the victims of violence and crime, rather than the perpetrators.
Myth 6: Schizophrenia only affects your mind
Many people do not realise the impact schizophrenia has on people’s physical health. People with schizophrenia have an average life expectancy that is up to 20 years shorter than people without the condition. This may be due to a variety of factors, including lifestyle, a lack of physical health checks for those living with the illness, and the side-effects of anti-psychotic medication. This can include extreme weight gain, that can in turn increase someone’s risk of developing heart disease or diabetes.
Myth 7: People with schizophrenia need to be monitored at all times
People with schizophrenia may need differing levels of support, whether that’s medication, talking therapies or supported housing. When people with schizophrenia are getting access to the treatment and support they need, it’s absolutely possible to have a good quality of life, with all the things any of us would do from having a job, to studying or having a family.