Saturday, January 9, 2010

Ten Schizophrenia Myths Busted

Below is my Reader's Digest treatment from a very informative blog piece by Suzane Smith on X-Ray Technician Schools. Suzane dedicates her site to provide information to medical students. I strongly urge reading the full article. Now, to the myth-busting ...

1. Schizophrenia involves multiple personalities.

One of the most prevailing misconceptions regarding schizophrenia revolves around confusing it with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). DID requires the presence of at least two entirely unique personalities with easily distinguished behavior patterns, one of which must regularly assume control of the body over the other. 

Schizophrenia, by contrast, is classified under the psychotic disorder spectrum. It contains 5 different subtypes, each with varying symptoms and diagnostic requirements. Delusions, visual and/or auditory hallucinations, disorganized speech and thoughts, dramatically erratic or outright catatonic behavior patterns, avolition, alogia, and a deadening of emotional responses may all indicate the onset of a schizophrenic episode.

The confusion set in due to the Greek etymology of the word, which literally means “I split.”

2. Individuals with schizophrenia are inherently dangerous people.

In reality, those with schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders only comprise anywhere between 1% to 5% of violent crimes against other individuals. 10%, tragically, end up committing suicide – making those with schizophrenia more likely to stand as a danger to themselves rather than others. Many of them feel pushed to the brink of killing themselves due to extreme levels of marginalization and misunderstanding courtesy of mainstream society. In fact, people with schizophrenia are far more likely to end up as the victims of violent criminals rather than the perpetrators. 

3. There is no reason for individuals with schizophrenia to receive psychotherapeutic treatment – they’ll just keep relapsing.

Treatment for schizophrenia usually involves psychosocial therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, self-help groups, family therapy, antipsychotic medications, or some combination thereof. By learning how to take control of their illness, people with schizophrenia may very well end up leading happy, productive lives once the proper blend of therapy and/or medication has been established. Unfortunately, due to stigmas regarding psychotherapy, many individuals suffering from schizophrenia shy away from pursuing it.

4. Individuals with schizophrenia are generally too far gone to work, and the ones who can rarely rise above the menial level.

In reality, those with schizophrenia run the gamut from a complete inability to work to highly functioning in an impressively accomplished career. Nobel Prize-winning mathematician John Forbes Nash, Jr. battles paranoid schizophrenia, as does bestselling author Robert M. Pirsig.

5. Schizophrenia is just a clinical term for a character defect.

Scientists have narrowed schizophrenia’s origins to genetics – possibly triggered by certain environmental factors – and a patient’s brain structure and chemical makeup.  Other research has revealed possible issues with the neurotransmitters glutamate and dopamine in addition to enlarged ventricles, irregular activity, cell distribution, and inadequate grey matter. 

6. Symptoms of schizophrenia are relatively homogeneous.

Because medical professionals recognize 5 different subtypes of the disorder (7 in Europe), the actual symptoms of schizophrenia remain far more diverse than many people think. All of them share at least 3 diagnostic criteria, with variances between the subtypes and some individuals. In order to be considered schizophrenic, a patient must display two or more of the following symptoms: auditory or visual hallucinations, delusions, a thought disorder, disorganized speech and behavior, catatonia, avolition, affective flattening, or alogia. He or she must also suffer from a social and/or career disruption, and all symptoms must persist for a minimum of 6 months.

7. Schizophrenia is an extremely rare disorder.

Approximately 1.1% of Americans over the age of 18 receive a diagnosis of schizophrenia every year. However, due to mainstream society shaming and stigmatizing the mentally ill and the psychotherapeutic avenues they need to get better, it is sadly possible that many more suffer from the disease and never seek out professional guidance. Symptoms generally begin their onset between the ages of 16 and 30, with males developing them earlier than females and delusions generally appearing first. Though rare, it is still possible for schizophrenia to manifest in a child.

8. The most defining characteristic of schizophrenia involves hearing voices in one’s head.

Not all cases of schizophrenia involve the clich├ęd voices in the head. Typically, those with paranoid schizophrenia suffer the most frequently and the most intensely from auditory hallucinations. Other types may experience them, though it is typically more sporadic and less severe. 

9. An individual with schizophrenia may only undergo rehabilitation upon attaining stability.

Once an individual has received a formal diagnosis of schizophrenia, rehabilitation must begin immediately in order to infuse him or her with all the tools necessary for the simultaneously most effective and swift method of treatment. Waiting too long for a patient to achieve stability prior to initiating the rehabilitation process may mean the difference between a recovery and merely doing better.

10. Individuals with schizophrenia have to be medicated the rest of their lives.

For schizophrenia patients who find a psychotherapy and medication regimen that efficiently quells their symptoms, the recovery rate remains startlingly high. Some professionals estimate between 25% and 50% of the schizophrenia population cease to display signs of the disorder upon responsible long-term cessation of their medications. However, whether or not they achieve a full recovery hinges on a number of different factors, such as a suitable combination of one or more types of therapy.

Full article ...

Also check out on Suzane's site:

Ten Common Myths About Suicide

Ten Myths About Domestic Violence


Gabrielle Blackman-Sheppard said...

A very useful summary - thank you John. One of my friends has schizophrenia and, helped by his medication, he leads a very fruitful productive and happy life.

DuncePatrol said...

I had never heard most of these "myths", ongoing medication was the only familiar one. The reality sounded a little better.
The link the to the author's blog is to an X-ray Technical School site. I looked for the author's credentials. There are no names or information.
This is a business website, the lists seem to exist to lure the unsuspecting reader. The articles claim no author. Educating the public will help foster acceptance of mental illness in mainstream society. It is important to make sure the "experts" we recommend know what they are talking about.

John McManamy said...

Hey, Dunce Patrol. I have a 10 myths list about bipolar on BipolarConnect. I approach it in a different way than this one, but I think I would have used about 5 items from this list. But I would't presume to write a SZ list. I'd be very happy to publish a different one.