Download “Schizophrenia Explained”
In our own popular culture, there may be more widespread ignorance about schizophrenia than any other common illness. Ask a classroom of American college students in engineering or English literature what they know about AIDS or cancer and they will probably have a lot to say. But ask about schizophrenia and the silence will be embarrassing. Although schizophrenia is more common than AIDS/HIV, most people know far less about it. ‘Isn’t it like multiple personality disorder?’ people ask. ‘Is it caused by child abuse?’ ‘Are they mentally retarded?’ The answer to all these questions is ‘No.’
What is it about this condition that stifles discussion and learning? AIDS, cancer and schizophrenia are all perceived as contaminating and incurable, but somehow people with schizophrenia are seen as more mysterious, alien and violent. Centuries of fear have promulgated many myths about schizophrenia. What are the facts?
Schizophrenia is a psychosis. That is to say, it is a severe mental disorder in which the person’s emotions, thinking, judgment, and grasp of reality are so disturbed that his or her functioning is seriously impaired.
The symptoms of schizophrenia are often divided into ‘positive’ and ‘negative.’ Positive symptoms are abnormal experiences and perceptions like delusions, hallucinations, illogical and disorganized thinking and inappropriate behavior. Negative symptoms are the absence of normal thoughts, emotions and behavior; such as blunted emotions, loss of drive, poverty of thought, and social withdrawal.