Debunking Six Myths on Schizophrenia


People wrongly relate schizophrenia symptoms with multiple or split personalities, antisocial behaviors and other mental disabilities. Others think that schizophrenia is a defect in character and that someone could behave well if he really needed or wanted to.

These are six common myths on schizophrenia:

1. Multiple or split personality is a type of schizophrenia.

Multiple personality, which is a very rare case, is a completely different mental disorder that is also known as dissociative identity disorder. (Under certain situation, people with split personality often assume different characters or identities, often with different names, characteristics, personal histories and even voices.)

2. Schizophrenic people are violent.

Those with schizophrenia symptoms are prone to become victims instead of perpetrators of crimes. You may believe that someone with schizophrenia has a tendency toward violence, but the truth is that they are not capable of committing violent crimes, and worst criminals are not schizophrenic. For example, serial killers (those who commit more than three subsequent murders) often aren’t psychotic (separated from reality); they are likely to have a sociopathic personality (a condition in which the individual disregards commonly accepted norms and social rules, displays impulsive behaviors, and is indifferent to law and others’ wellbeing). However, those who have no access for treatment, reject any form of medication and whose thought is disconnected with the reality are at higher risk of displaying self-neglect and aggressive behaviors. The risk of violent crime also increases if a schizophrenic person is actively abusing illicit drugs or alcohol. In general, aggressive behaviors are usually directed toward friends or family members rather than toward complete strangers.

3. Poor parenting can cause schizophrenia.

For decades, clinicians worked under the assumption that schizophrenia was induced by parenting style that was either too controlling or too permissive. The term “schizophrenogenic parents” was once used to define such parents – however, the blame is usually directed on mothers because they are closer with their children. Another obsolete theory is known as the double-bind theory, it suggests that schizophrenia caused by inconsistent parenting that continuously expose children with conflicting messages. These concepts were not based on controlled, valid studies, and they no longer have strong credibility today.

4. Schizophrenic people are mentally retarded.

A few people believe that schizophrenia is equal with mental retardation (now often referred to as developmental disabilities). Just like general public, schizophrenic people may show excellent intellectual abilities (John Nash, for example). They may appear half-witted because of poor social skills, strange behaviors, and cognitive problems that are often main characteristic of schizophrenia. Even so, they are not lacking in cognitive ability, and schizophrenia is not related with developmental disabilities (mental and physical deficits that are chronic and that usually begin in childhood).

5. Schizophrenia is a character defect.

Bad symptoms of schizophrenia may give you a mistaken impression that schizophrenic people are non-responsive and could behave “normally” if they needed or wanted to. This assumption is no more correct than suggesting that epilepsy patients could prevent their seizures if they really wanted to or you can “decide” not to get cancer if you eat anti-oxidant rich foods. What often seems as character defects are actually schizophrenia symptoms. When bad schizophrenia symptoms are persistent and caused by schizophrenia, they are referred to as deficit syndrome.

6. There is no hope in treating schizophrenia.

Before 1950’s, people who were diagnosed with schizophrenic symptoms, were either restrained at home behind locked doors by forlorn and embarrassed families who thought of no other alternatives, or consigned to years of stays in remote state hospitals for custodial care (they didn’t get treatment, just taken care of). Apart using potent sedatives, doctors had few alternatives for relieving the torment and agitation of schizophrenic patients. Unlike the way things were decades ago, schizophrenia is now a highly treatable condition. A new generation of treatment and the introduction of new kinds of therapies have allowed doctors to treat schizophrenia symptoms on most patients by enabling them to have productive, meaningful lives in their societies.

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Mark Thomas


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  • My husband suffers from paranoid schizphrenia and anyone with any association with this disease would have to say that you are 100% accurate in your debunking of the 6 myths. My husband came from a loving home, he has never been violent, in fact just the opposite, very meek and mild mannered when his disease is exacerbated by (on occassion) him thinking he no longer needs to take his medication. He is a Revenue Officer in the Civil Service for the past 23 years, has a BS degree in Engineering and a BS in Pure Math. He also came from a very loving family. His mother thought the sun shone out his back side!

    In the USA the psychiatrists no longer believe in such thing as a "split or multiple personality", finally. The term now used is disassociative disorder … I believe. (I was the office nurse for a psychiatrist for several years, several years ago.) Ther personality does not "split" like a poorly cooked hollandaise sauce! And a character flaw? That is a new one … I've not heard of before. But in my experience it is about as much of a character flaw as a case of the flu.

    I do appreciate you setting the public straight. Please continue on with your work in such a positive direction!

    Kindest regards,

    Lynda Keenan

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Mark Thomas