Some myths about schizophrenia

I think that schizophrenia must surely be the most misunderstood of all the mental illnesses. The word schizophrenia conjures up images of a split personality and/or extreme aggression. This is due mainly to what the media project. As if my son didn’t have sufficient to deal with after his diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia, he had to deal with the stigma, and so did we. And that stigma is all-encompassing, believe me.

It’s simply not true that every single person who suffers from schizophrenia is dangerous. Some people believe that schizophrenia is genetic, but there have been surveys of twins for example, where test results proved that only one twin developed this illness even though there had been schizophrenia in a previous generation. I would like to hear more about this aspect.

Others believe that schizophrenia might be a character flaw and that the individual is damaged for life, but a psychiatric disorder is an illness and not a personal flaw. Would we name leukemia a personal flaw? After consulting with psychiatrists and reading extensively about it, I discovered that a psychiatric disorder is not something that has to affect a young person’s potential for future fulfilment.

I have heard it said that young people can grow out of mental health problems but this is not true. With early intervention and the correct treatment, they can learn to live with it.

It has also been said that therapy for these young people is a waste of time but researchers believe that therapy has the best results especially from the time symptoms appear for a few years at least.

One of the most hurtful things my son heard on more than one occasion was: ‘You can get through this by using all the willpower you can muster.’ But mental illness in not a mood change or a mild form of anxiety. We know how hard our son tried to help himself but an illness is an illness. He did have willpower though. The meds he was taking caused him to put on weight and he did not like this at all as he had always taken care of his body, so, he pulled himself together sufficiently to do exercises every night and then go for long walks. He walked so much that we found ourselves replacing his sport shoes every two months.

And the worst myth of all, one that I heard personally, was that psychiatric disorders result from bad parenting.

Even if a parent tries, I doubt whether he/she could cause schizophrenia so why add blame to the load that parents are already carrying?


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