5 Schizophrenia Myths You Shouldn’t Believe, According to Pablo Vandenabeele – Clinical Director for Mental Health at Bupa UK Insurance ahead of National Schizophrenia Awareness Day on the 25th July.
We’re fast-approaching National Schizophrenia Awareness Day (25th July), with this year’s focus aiming to break down the stigma surrounding this much-misunderstood illness.
Here Pablo Vandenabeele – Clinical Director for Mental Health at Bupa UK Insurance – sheds some light on the most common misconceptions about schizophrenia, to help raise awareness of this complicated mental health condition.
Schizophrenia is a mental health condition which affects the way you think and can cause a range of different psychological symptoms. Each person with schizophrenia is uniquely impacted by their condition, with symptoms varying from one person to another.
There are lots of misconceptions about schizophrenia – stories in the media are often sensationalised and misleading. These misconceptions can be upsetting and offensive, leading to the condition being misunderstood, but there are things you can do to help manage any negativity you encounter. Remember you’re not alone and there is a lot of support out there for you. Sharing your story and talking about your own experience with schizophrenia can help too.
What symptoms do you experience with schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia causes a range of different psychological symptoms. Many experiences and behaviours can be part of schizophrenia, and they can start suddenly, or they might develop gradually over time.
Signs and symptoms may vary, but usually involve delusions (false beliefs that are not based in reality) and hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that don’t exist). You might also feel generally disinterested, disconnected from your emotions and you may find it difficult to concentrate.
Five misconceptions about schizophrenia
Schizophrenia involves a ‘split’ personality:
Schizophrenia doesn’t mean you have a split personality. Instead it is more accurate to say that the mind becomes confused and disordered, and you ‘split’ from reality when you experience an episode of psychosis, as well as changes in thoughts and emotions.
Schizophrenia is rare: Schizophrenia is a common mental health condition – about one in a hundred people will develop it. It is thought to affect 20 million people worldwide. Schizophrenia is most often diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 35, and men and women are affected equally.
There is no effective treatment for schizophrenia: Whilst there is no cure for schizophrenia, there are treatments available. Experiences of schizophrenia will vary from person to person, so it’s important to know about all treatments available to help manage this condition.
Medication is available to support you with schizophrenia, and it affects people in different ways. It’s important to speak to your doctor if you’re experiencing side effects, as there are different types of medications available.
You may find it helpful to look out for any warning signs (for example feeling anxious, sleeping less, or finding it hard to concentrate) to manage your condition. Sharing any changes with your close friends and family can also help.
Don’t underestimate looking after yourself physically either – make sure you’re getting enough sleep, eating a varied diet, and exercising regularly. Feeling connected to other people is also an important part of staying well.
Schizophrenia stops you from living a ‘normal’ life
Many people with schizophrenia live very full, meaningful lives. There are lots of treatments available, both via professional support and self-care.
It could help to explore possible options for support when things are less difficult, so you have information ready for times when you might need it. You could speak to your doctor about the support available, try peer support and keep a mood diary. It can also help to talk to someone you trust about how you would like to be helped if you are in a crisis.
It is easy to diagnose
Diagnosing schizophrenia is not easy, mainly because there are many, different symptoms associated with schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia is a complicated mental health condition and each person’s experience is unique. You may be diagnosed with schizophrenia if you experience hallucinations (hearing voices or seeing things that other don’t), delusions, feel disconnected and have a general lack of interest in things.
Diagnosing schizophrenia is complicated – there’s no straightforward test for it. However, if you are experiencing symptoms, it’s important to speak to your doctor, as they’ll be able to help.