Like many mental health conditions, schizophrenia is not well understood. For many the diagnosis is rather frightening.
Schizophrenia is a highly stigmatized condition, and many people with the disorder face discrimination and prejudice in various aspects of their lives, such as employment and relationships. Raising awareness can help to reduce stigma and promote greater understanding and acceptance of the condition.
Because May 24 is World Schizophrenia Day, we thought this was a great time to look at schizophrenia a bit more closely, dispel some misconceptions, and help generate understanding and acceptance.
What is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a chronic mental disorder that affects a person’s ability to think, feel, and behave clearly. It is a complex condition that often involves a combination of genetic, environmental, and brain chemistry factors.
The symptoms of schizophrenia, according to the American Psychiatric Association, can vary in severity and can be grouped into three categories:
- Positive symptoms: (those abnormally present) Hallucinations, such as hearing voices or seeing things that do not exist, paranoia and exaggerated or distorted perceptions, beliefs and behaviors.
- Negative symptoms: (those abnormally absent) A loss or a decrease in the ability to initiate plans, speak, express emotion or find pleasure.
- Disorganized symptoms: Confused and disordered thinking and speech, trouble with logical thinking and sometimes bizarre behavior or abnormal movements.
The American Psychiatric Association goes on to explain that “Symptoms of schizophrenia usually first appear in early adulthood and must persist for at least six months for a diagnosis to be made. Men often experience initial symptoms in their late teens or early 20s while women tend to show first signs of the illness in their 20s and early 30s. More subtle signs may be present earlier, including troubled relationships, poor school performance and reduced motivation.”
Stigma and Discrimination
According to the World Health Organization, “Schizophrenia affects approximately 24 million people or 1 in 300 people” worldwide. Even with its prevalence, stigma and discrimination associated with schizophrenia are pervasive and can have a significant negative impact on individuals with the disorder and their families. These attitudes are often based on myths and misconceptions about schizophrenia, and can lead to unfair treatment and exclusion from various aspects of society.
Some common examples of stigma and discrimination associated with schizophrenia include:
- Stereotyping: People with schizophrenia are often portrayed in the media as dangerous or violent, which is not supported by evidence. This can lead to a fear of people with the disorder, making them less likely to receive the support and understanding they need.
- Discrimination in Employment: People with schizophrenia may face discrimination in employment, as employers may assume they are unable to work or be productive due to their condition.
- Social Exclusion: Individuals with schizophrenia may also experience social exclusion, as others may feel uncomfortable or unsure how to interact with them.
- Limited Access to Healthcare: People with schizophrenia may face barriers in accessing healthcare, due to stigma or discrimination from healthcare providers or insurance companies.
These attitudes can lead to negative outcomes for individuals with schizophrenia, such as a lack of access to healthcare, social isolation, and a decreased quality of life. In fact, these problems are so common that the World Health Organization specifies that those with schizophrenia frequently experience
“human rights violations both inside mental health institutions and in community settings. Stigma against people with this condition is intense and widespread, causing social exclusion, and impacting their relationships with others, including family and friends. This contributes to discrimination, which in turn can limit access to general health care, education, housing, and employment.”
Misconceptions about Schizophrenia
There are many misconceptions surrounding schizophrenia, which can contribute to stigma and make it more difficult for individuals with the disorder to receive appropriate treatment and support. Some common misconceptions about schizophrenia include:
- Schizophrenia is a Split Personality Disorder: Schizophrenia is often mistakenly equated with dissociative identity disorder (formerly known as multiple personality disorder). However, schizophrenia is not a split personality disorder, and individuals with schizophrenia do not have multiple personalities.
- Schizophrenia Means Having a Split Personality: Similarly, schizophrenia is often misunderstood as causing a split in an individual’s personality. In reality, schizophrenia is a mental illness that affects a person’s thinking, emotions, and behavior.
- Schizophrenia is Caused by Bad Parenting: There is no evidence to suggest that bad parenting or upbringing causes schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a complex disorder that is influenced by a combination of genetic, environmental, and neurobiological factors.
- People with Schizophrenia are Violent: While individuals with schizophrenia may experience delusions or hallucinations, there is no evidence to suggest that they are more likely to be violent than the general population. In fact, individuals with schizophrenia are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators.
- Schizophrenia is a Hopeless Condition: With appropriate treatment and support, many individuals with schizophrenia are able to manage their symptoms and live fulfilling lives. While recovery from schizophrenia can be challenging, it is important to recognize that recovery is possible and that individuals with schizophrenia can go on to lead successful and meaningful lives.
There are several ways to combat the stigmatization of schizophrenia and promote greater understanding and acceptance of the disorder:
Educating the public about schizophrenia and its symptoms can help to dispel myths and stereotypes about the disorder. This can involve public awareness campaigns, educational programs in schools and workplaces, and public events.
Advocating for the rights of people with schizophrenia and their families can help to reduce discrimination and promote greater access to resources and support. This can involve supporting policy changes, funding research, and promoting positive representation of schizophrenia in the media.
Providing support services and resources for individuals with schizophrenia and their families can help to reduce stigma and improve quality of life. This can include access to mental health professionals, peer support groups, and community programs.
Empowering individuals with schizophrenia to be active participants in their treatment and recovery can help to reduce stigma and promote a sense of hope and resilience. This can involve providing opportunities for people with schizophrenia to share their experiences and insights with others, and involving them in the development of mental health policies and programs.
By taking these steps, we can work towards combatting the stigmatization of schizophrenia and promoting greater understanding and acceptance of the disorder, ultimately improving the lives of individuals with schizophrenia and their families.
the road to wellness starts by seeking help. today.
Built on the principles of assertive community treatment, Galen Hope is an eating disorder and mental health treatment center offering individualized treatment options that include Intensive Outpatient (IOP), supported housing, and Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP). As a “Community of Integrated Wellness,” we pride ourselves in fostering a thoughtful and meaningful care experience that can guide our clients on their road to recovery and increased quality of life, regardless of diagnosis. Galen Hope currently offers separate, age-specific programming for adolescents ages 12-17 and adults 18 and up, of all genders.
To learn more, or to join our community for integrated wellness, please contact us today.
Belong. Heal. Grow.