What is schizophrenia? 5 myths debunked
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that makes it difficult to distinguish between what is real and what isn’t, which causes abnormal social behavior. Among its symptoms are deliriousness, thought disorders, and hearing voices. But movies and TV shows have distorted our view about schizophrenia and made us believe other myths about this disorder that aren’t true.
In movies, schizophrenics are usually depicted as dangerous people or serial killers, which is the most common stereotype. Amanda Davenport, a woman who suffers from this disorder in real life, shows us what we should and shouldn’t believe.
1. The voices aren’t multiple personalities
“The ‘voices’ that I hear aren’t different from the critical voices that anyone has in their head, just that I hear mine more clearly, as if someone was sitting next to me. Oh, and they’re evil. There are two different masculine voices that I hear. One tells me I have to hurt myself or other people. The other one insults me”, Amanda says.
Many movies have made us believe that schizophrenics have multiple personalities, which has caused a lot of confusion about this disorder. In some fictional works, the killer doesn’t even know he’s the killer because he doesn’t realize he has another personality. To know more about schizophrenia in real life, we have to understand that these voices don’t have power over the person and they don’t change them. They are conscious and have control over the voices.
2. The voices don’t make you violent
“When all of this started, one of the voices started to give me graphic instructions to kill a particularly annoying professor that I had. That really upset me, to put it lightly. It was before I knew that the whole world would see me as a potential serial killer, so I went to the school guidance counselor, I told her what happened to me, and she pretty much lost her mind. It’s an understandable reaction, but the fear of this reaction is what prevents a lot of schizophrenics from getting help”.
To explain what schizophrenia really is, it is important to understand that the crime rate among schizophrenics is no higher than the rest of the population. Most schizophrenics don’t like the voices that they hear, so it’s normal that they would ignore them at all cost. Amanda assures us that the closest she came to acting violently was due to a medication that caused mood swings.
3. It’s not easy to figure out if someone has schizophrenia
“In reality, most the symptoms can be confused for weird behavior or social awkwardness. Even my own family doctor was surprised when he found out that I was schizophrenic; he said ‘you look so normal’”.
What Amanda said is true. You can be next to someone who is schizophrenic right now and not even know it.
4. Schizophrenics have to take strong medications to control themselves
“At one point, I was taking 23 different medications. Al of the anti-psychotic drugs have horrible side effects, which have to be treated by other medicine, which have their own side effects, and everything is like a vicious circle.”
Although this illness can’t be cured, it can be treated. On many occasions, may of the reactions that they suffer are side effects from medication and not the illness itself. In some cases it may seem like someone needs help, but maybe they’re receiving too much help.
5. Other people create the illness
“All of the horrible things that people think about schizophrenia can be even worse than having the actual illness. I got pregnant, so I asked on an online forum for pregnant woman if anyone had had a similar experience. The reactions were divided in two. On the one hand, there was the mob that wanted to come after me with torched and pitchforks, and the other women who told me I was selfish to have a baby that is likely to be exposed to my illness and possible inherit it.”
Those people who have mental illnesses already have a hard enough time without someone who doesn’t know them trying to make their life more difficult. Despite the perception that others had of her, Amanda managed to graduate, work from home, get married, and have children, which is a pretty normal life. A happy ending to a story that has nothing to do with Hollywood.
Molly is a writer specialized in health and psychology. She is passionate about neuroscience and how the brain works, and is constantly looking for new content from interesting sources. Molly is happy to give or take advice, and is always working to educate and inspire.