What do the relatives of people with schizophrenia face when they hear the diagnosis? On the one hand, there is pity, since this is a dear person, on the other … there may be fear, and sometimes – hostility, because a serious flaw in our society – stigma – teaches us that it is dangerous, difficult, incurable and hopeless. Is it so?
For a long time, mental illness was associated with numerous myths, received religious or other, the most incredible explanations. Their origin was completely incomprehensible, and therefore the methods of treating schizophrenia left much to be desired. Mentally ill people were recognized as extremely dangerous for themselves and for those around them, therefore their content did not differ in humanity. This is how a huge number of myths were born, which, unfortunately, are still alive, and the stigmatization of this disease creates a huge number of problems for the patients themselves and for their families: children, parents, other relatives.
Some of the responsibility for stigmatization lies with schizophrenia scholars over the past decades. Such a well-known now “term” as “personality split”, introduced by Eugen Bleuler, is just an inaccurate translation from German of one of those signs of schizophrenia, which he himself did not consider to be the leading one. The curiosity of the situation lies in the fact that Bleuler himself did not mean any splitting of the personality, and called the cognitive and affective disorders the main symptoms of schizophrenia.
Many experts note that over the past two decades, attitudes towards people with schizophrenia have worsened. That is why there is a need for a widespread and targeted dissemination of information about what schizophrenia really is, what are the projections for its cure, and whether this disease is really dangerous and intolerable.
Our article also serves the purpose of debunking non-constructive myths about schizophrenia.
Myth 1. Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder . This is a mysterious disease, the origin of which is not fully understood. But the timely help of qualified specialists gives a long-term remission and allows a person to lead a normal life. Some patients may have mild disorders, but they do not necessarily lead to disability. Some authors note that in 20-25% of patients who took part in long-term studies, complete recovery was ascertained (Tsuang MT, Winokur G., Chiompi L., Muller C., Bleuler M, Huber G., Westermeyer JF, Harrow M. )
Myth 2 . The main symptom of schizophrenia is split personality . Schizophrenia does not mean that there are two or more different personalities inside a person. Here we are talking about splitting, for example, emotions: a person can show a positive attitude towards something or someone, and then, for no apparent reason, suddenly expresses extreme hostility towards the same object; can be very upset about the death of an animal or plant, but at the same time not react emotionally to the death of a loved one.
Myth 3. The final course of schizophrenia is dementia . With this disease, cognitive changes are observed, but timely treatment, cognitive rehabilitation of patients give excellent results. And among the patients there are brilliant mathematicians, artists, chess players, musicians who continue to work productively and live a full life.
Myth 4. Schizophrenia is dangerous for society . Schizophrenia is a mental illness that is not contagious, sexually transmitted, airborne, or otherwise. Even the hereditary causation of this disease is questioned by many experts. Cases of aggression towards others on the part of schizophrenic patients occur statistically less frequently than with healthy people. On the contrary, unfortunately, more often such people themselves become victims.
Myth 5. Schizophrenia is incurable. According to statistics (Schizophrenia. VL Minutko. 2009), 25% of people experience the first and only episode of psychosis, and then no relapses are observed during their life. And only in a small number of patients, schizophrenia progresses rapidly after the first episode. With the timely start of treatment between acute episodes, there is a slight manifestation of the symptoms of the disease and the person lives a full life.
Myth 6. With schizophrenia, you need to take pills (or stay in the hospital) for life . This is not true. Often, a single episode can be stopped, and then only the patient’s condition can be monitored. With timely initiation of treatment, where psychotherapy and social-cognitive rehabilitation are mandatory , continuous and lifelong use of pharmacological agents may not be necessary.
Myths about schizophrenia make life much harder for sufferers. Their families and themselves suffer. There is a phenomenon of self-stigmatization, when a person, having learned that he is sick with schizophrenia, “puts an end to himself” and may try to die. We sincerely hope that the debunking of such destructive myths will contribute to the acceptance by society and families of those people who, in general, are ordinary, only, unlike healthy people, they experience additional suffering.