Schizophrenia is a chronic psychiatric disorder that affects one in every one thousand individuals world wide. With limited understanding of the disease process and stigma associated with psychiatric illnesses, most patients don’t get timely diagnosis and treatment causing massive psycho social and physical morbidity. It’s important to learn about this disorder to identify and treat the problem before it ruins the sufferer and their families.
There are several myths surrounding this disease that make it difficult for people to address the problem effectively.
Schizophrenia means split personality- Even though the meaning of the word schizophrenia derived from Greek language means a split in mind, schizophrenia is clinically not a disorder or personality splitting into two ( that’s a dissociative disorder). It’s a neurochemical disorder of the brain that results in disorders of thinking and perception leading to delusions and hallucinations.
Schizophrenia is caused by evil magic/ghosts/spirits and treatment is beyond the scope of medical science. - Schizophrenia is a medical disorder that affects brain functions. Therefore the thinking process of individual gets disturbed causing them to behave irrationally and aggressively. The disorder usually begins early in life (18-25yrs of age) and is not specifically the result of a particular stressful or traumatic event or a supernatural phenomenon.
Schizophrenia can be treated by getting married or having children. - No illness can be treated by getting married. Marriage is a big responsibility and even normal people struggle to adjust to the changes that come with getting married. The social dysfunction in schizophrenia along with emotional and cognitive deficits makes it even more difficult for patients to adapt to a married life with increased chances of relapse.
Schizophrenic patients deliberately turn violent or imagine/makeup false stories- Schizophrenia is an illness which is not in control of the suffering patient. For the patient, the thoughts and perceptions arising in their mind like fear that someone is following them or is telling them to do things are very much real, they are not lying or manipulating anyone but are unable to differentiate real from unreal. This also makes them very anxious and loose control of their emotions making them aggressive or violent.
Treatment for Schizophrenia is meant to sedate patient, they become dysfunctional due to medication- Treatment of schizophrenia is aimed at balancing the disturbed Neuro chemicals in brain and not to sedate the patients. Some medicines can cause sedation while others don’t cause this side effect. With early intervention, patients respond better to lower doses of medication and also suffer from lesser side effects. Still, patient is better with treatment then without because untreated psychosis tends to worsen overtime and even becomes resistant to medicines.
Although we are still not completely clear about the cause of schizophrenia and treatment modalities, still whatever understanding is available has helped millions of psychotic people lead a better life and get rehabilitated in society. Early intervention is most important in achieving sustained response and functionality. If there is anyone you know, who is acting irrationally , appears paranoid and disruptive without any reason, don’t blame them. Seek professional help.