Social isolation, stigma mark the plight of those suffering with schizophrenia - Camp Lejeune Globe: Raising Healthy Minds

Social isolation, stigma mark the plight of those suffering with schizophrenia

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Posted: Monday, October 29, 2018 7:00 am

It’s that spooky time of the year. With Halloween approaching, you might be seeing scary movies depicting crazed madmen who are out to get victims. Often, these characters are portrayed with extreme psychotic symptoms such as delusionary thinking and paranoia. While merely an attempt to add a plot twist to the story, these portrayals are inaccurate and even insulting to those living with severe mental illness.

One of these severe mental illnesses that receives a great deal of stigmatization from the entertainment industry is schizophrenia. I want to dispel the myths and provide insight into this tragic mental disorder that can deeply affect those it touches.

Schizophrenia as

defined by the National Alliance on Mental Illness is a serious mental illness that can interfere with a person’s ability to think clearly, manage emotions, make decisions and relate to others.

The condition used to be divided into subcategories, such as paranoid schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. These have been disregarded by the American Psychological Association in recent years as they were shown to have poor validity and reliability.

However, there are some hallmark symptoms of schizophrenia to be aware of including:

Hallucinations

Hallucinations include a person hearing voices, seeing things, or smelling things not perceivable to others. Hallucinations are very real and often very frightening to those experiencing them.

It may be very confusing or also frightening for loved ones to witness this experience. Audible hallucinations can be critical or threatening and may involve people that are known or unknown to the person hearing them.

Delusions

False beliefs that individuals hold even when presented with new ideas or facts. People who have delusions often also have problems concentrating, confusion, or the sense that their thoughts are blocked.

Negative symptoms

Negative symptoms are ones that diminish a person’s abilities. Negative symptoms often include being emotionally flat or speaking in a dull, disconnected way. People with the negative symptoms may be unable to start or complete activities, show little interest in daily life, or be unable to sustain relationships.

Negative symptoms are sometimes confused with clinical depression, which shares many of the same characteristics.

Cognitive issues/disorganized thinking

People with the cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia often struggle with memory, and don’t organize their thoughts or complete tasks. People with schizophrenia often have anosognosia or “lack of insight.” This means the person is unaware that he even has the illness, which can make treating or working with him more challenging.

Schizophrenia has several possible causes. Genetics, substance abuse and abnormalities in brain chemistry or structure are all potential causes for the illness. There is not a singular diagnostic test to accurately diagnose schizophrenia.

Many other factors include the abuse of drugs, presence of other mental disorders such as bipolar disorder or psychosis, and even brain tumors. A licensed mental health practitioner will need to run several tests to rule these possibilities out and pinpoint if schizophrenia is the diagnosis.

Methods of treatment for schizophrenia include forms of psychotherapy, psychoeducation, social skills training, drug rehabilitation (if needed) and various antipsychotic medications.

There is no known cure for schizophrenia, so the disease is a lifelong battle. With the right help and intensive support, people with schizophrenia can live relatively normal lives without interruption.

It is important if you or someone you know has schizophrenia, you stay in treatment. Getting off medications or disconnecting from support can be dangerous, as symptoms can come back.

People with schizophrenia are just that — people. They are not monsters or raging madmen out to hurt you. As with many people with mental illness, they are more a danger to themselves than others. Speak out, speak up and provide support for those living with this difficult illness.

For local resources, visit www.mccslejeune-newriver.com/counseling/index.htm. For more information on schizophrenia, visit www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Schizophrenia/Overview.