All About Schizophrenia: Debunking Myths and Stigma

Let’s talk about schizophrenia. It’s a disorder that affects about 1.1% of the world’s population – that makes about 3.5 million Americans.

Slowly but surely, we’re breaking down stigmas around mental health disorders. But there seems to be a lack of accurate representation of schizophrenic people in particular. So, let’s look at the facts and the fiction surrounding this disorder.

What Is Schizophrenia?

According to Mayo Clinic,

Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder in which people interpret reality abnormally. Schizophrenia may result in some combination of hallucinations, delusions, and extremely disordered thinking and behavior that impairs daily functioning, and can be disabling.

…In men, schizophrenia symptoms typically start in the early to mid-20s. In women, symptoms typically begin in the late 20s. It’s uncommon for children to be diagnosed with schizophrenia and rare for those older than age 45.

…It’s not known what causes schizophrenia, but researchers believe that a combination of genetics, brain chemistry and environment contributes to development of the disorder.

So we know what it is: a serious mental disorder, but one that’s highly treatable. Now, what about all that other stuff we’ve heard about schizophrenia over the years?

Surprise, surprise: a lot of it’s just not true. Let’s debunk some of the more common myths about schizophrenia.

Myth 1: Schizophrenia is just hallucinating.

Anyone who thinks schizophrenia is as simple as “seeing things” is missing the big picture. Hallucinations and delusions are a small part of schizophrenia symptoms. Like with other disorders, people with schizophrenia struggle with motivation, focus, building relationships and feeling emotion.

Myth 2: People with schizophrenia are dangerous.

No matter how many movies, shows or books depict a schizophrenic character as reckless, unpredictable and threatening, the facts are the facts: most people with schizophrenia are nonviolent.

Myth 3: There is no treatment for schizophrenia.

Luckily, this one couldn’t be more false. Schizophrenic people can live long, happy and fulfilling lives through a combination of medication, therapy and rehabilitation if needed.

Famous People With Schizophrenia

Representation is everything, and it helps to see people with large platforms speak openly about their mental illness. It helps us all realize that we’re not alone. Our mental disorders need not hinder us from success and happiness.

  • Darrell Hammond (actor and comedian of Saturday Night Live fame)
  • Zelda Fitzgerald (wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of “The Great Gatsby”)
  • Jack Kerouac (critically acclaimed Beat poet and author)
  • John Forbes Nash Jr. (Nobel Prize-winning mathematician and inspiration for the film A Beautiful Mind)
  • Brian Wilson (legendary musician and creative genius behind The Beach Boys)

As time goes on and stigmas fall apart, I imagine many more celebrities and role models will open up about their schizophrenia diagnoses.

If you or someone you know is displaying symptoms of schizophrenia, there are countless resources available to help. Please reach out to professionals in order to get the support you need.

Resources for Schizophrenia 

Catie Housman

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