Schizophrenia patients are often portrayed by the media as dangerous individuals. However, is it really so or is it just a wrong depiction?
It’s no secret that psychiatry and psychology have progressed tremendously over the past decade. Nowadays, we are seeing mental illness in the new and improved light for the first time in centuries. Nevertheless, there is still a long way to come. Severe disorders such as schizophrenia are still misrepresented by the media, which leads to toxic perceptions about schizophrenia patients.
Common Schizophrenia Myths
Schizophrenia is one of the most severe mental conditions one can be diagnosed with. Due to this, plenty of mistaken depictions have emerged over the years. Unfortunately, these end up harming those who are in this position.
In order to debunk them, it is essential to educate ourselves on the topic more. Here are the three most common wrongful assumptions society makes about schizophrenia patients, as well as an explanation for their inaccuracy.
1. Schizophrenia Patients Have Multiple Personalities
Perhaps the most common misconception about schizophrenia is the one according to which patients experience multiple personalities. This assumption has been propagated by modern media such as films, television, publications and so on for many years now. And the results of this wrongful portrayal have started to show among the world’s population.
A whopping 64% of the participants to a 2008 survey conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness believed that schizophrenia means suffering from multiple personalities. While it is true that the term ‘schizophrenia’ literally translates to ‘split mind’, this denomination refers to something else entirely.
When someone has a split mind, it does not mean that two or more selves are coexisting alternatively in there. It actually implies a mismatch between feelings and thoughts, which is something schizophrenia patients are all too familiar with. Having multiple personalities is actually the symptom of an entirely different condition, namely dissociative identity disorder.
Known as DID for short, dissociative identity disorder is a severe mental condition in which two or more distinct personalities exist and take turns in controlling the behavior of an individual. Many have described the experience as one of being possessed. It is completely different from schizophrenia on many levels.
2. Schizophrenia Patients Are a Danger to Society
Another widely encountered and toxic way in which schizophrenia patients are portrayed by the media has to do with their depiction as dangerous individuals. Films and television have made their villains mentally ill for decades now, and in most cases, the character is an unapologetic type of evil.
Reality couldn’t be more different. Most of the people who battle the disorder are completely non-violent and do not pose any kind of threat to society. In fact, just 23% of the crimes committed by schizophrenics are directly related to their diagnosis. What is more, psychotic symptoms, in general, are the root of just 5% of all the misdemeanors that occur in the world.
These numbers aren’t substantial enough to be relevant prove this wrongful assumption to be true. The sad truth is that people tend to be afraid of what they do not understand. And mental illness is still very much a taboo topic from this point of view. In spite of all the progress of society and medical science, we are still quick to judge those who battle their demons.
Most of the schizophrenia patients who turn violent or downright criminal are those who abuse drugs and alcohol simultaneously. This is another problem that is deeply rooted in our failure as a society to understand individuals in frail mental states and provide them with the proper care and attention they require.
3. A Schizophrenia Diagnosis Puts an End to Normal Life
The final everyday myth regarding schizophrenia and those who suffer from it is that according to which the official diagnosis puts an end to your normal life. Even with all the advance made in terms of psychiatric treatment, we have made many people still believe that experiencing mental illness means never recovering from it.
However, as explained by the medical director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Ken Duckworth, M.D., patients tend to heal over time as symptoms fade in intensity. Major or even complete recovery is possible with the right treatment, as this provides schizophrenics with much-needed relief from their troubles and ailments.
There are plenty of therapies available for those in this situation besides first and second-generation antipsychotics. Traditional talk therapy is an option, as is group or family time to combat social isolation and help patients reintegrate in society. Alternative courses of treatment have also proven to be effective in several cases.
Some patients respond to art therapy, such as painting, music, or dancing. Together with a certified psychiatrist, you can find the right combination for you. If you have been diagnosed with schizophrenia, you can rest assured. It is not a death sentence, and it doesn’t mean you are doomed. Keep your head up high and trust your doctor for help.
The Bottom Line
Many people still believe that schizophrenics are dangerous people that cannot be cured. What is more, there is still a lot of confusion on the topic of split personalities, even though that is the symptom of a completely different disease. With the help of positive media culture and adequate education on the topic, this can all change, but it will be a lengthy battle.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alex Moore is a psychology undergraduate and blogger who advocates for mental health awareness in general and a better understanding of schizophrenia in particular. You’ll typically find him contributing to Schizlife. Alex is very active on Twitter @alex_moore01