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Schizophrenia Myths and Facts

There's a lot of incorrect info out there about schizophrenia. Some of it is spread by movies or TV shows. Or sometimes people use stereotypes when talking about schizophrenia.

Get the real story behind some common myths.

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Myth: People with schizophrenia have multiple personalities.

This is one of the biggest misunderstandings about schizophrenia. One poll found that 64% of Americans believe schizophrenia involves a split personality -- which means someone acts like they are two separate people.

A person with schizophrenia doesn't have two different personalities. Instead, he or she has false ideas or has lost touch with reality. Schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder are two different and unrelated conditions.

Myth: Most people with schizophrenia are violent or dangerous.

In movies and TV shows, who is the crazed killer? Often it's the character with schizophrenia. That's not the case in real life.

Even though people with schizophrenia can act unpredictably at times, most aren't violent, especially if they're getting treated.

When people with schizophrenia do commit violent acts, they usually have another condition, like childhood conduct problems or substance abuse.

Myth: Schizophrenia is caused by bad parenting.

Some people mistakenly think that schizophrenia is due to bad parenting, especially by the mother.

Schizophrenia is a mental illness. It has many causes, including genes, trauma, and drug abuse. Mistakes you've made as a parent won't give your child schizophrenia.

Myth: If your parent has schizophrenia, you'll get it too.

Genes do play a role in schizophrenia. But just because one of your parents has the condition doesn't mean you're destined to get it.

If one parent has schizophrenia, your risk of the condition is about 10%. Having more than one family member with schizophrenia raises your risk further.

Myth: People with schizophrenia are stupid.

There have been studies that found people with schizophrenia have more trouble on tests of mental function, including attention, learning, and memory. Yet that doesn't mean they're not intelligent.

Many creative and smart people throughout history have had schizophrenia, such as Russian ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinsky and Nobel Prize-winning mathematician John Nash. Scientists have even discovered a gene linking mental disorders like schizophrenia to creativity and intellect.

Myth: If you have schizophrenia, you belong in a mental hospital.

There was a time when people with mental illness were thrown in mental asylums or even in prison. But now that we understand more about this disease, fewer people need to be placed in long-term mental health facilities. Most people with schizophrenia live with family or in supportive housing in the community.

Myth: You can't hold a job if you have schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia can make it harder for you to land a job and go to work every day. But with the right treatment, many people can find a position that suits their skills and abilities.

Myth: Schizophrenia makes people lazy.

People with schizophrenia may have a harder time taking care of their own daily needs, such as getting dressed and bathing. This does not mean they're "lazy." They just need a little extra help with their daily routine.

Myth: You can never recover from schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia can be hard to treat, but it's not impossible. With the right medicine and therapy, about 25% of people with schizophrenia will have a full recovery.

Another 50% will see some improvement in their symptoms. Many people with schizophrenia can live full, productive lives.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on March 26, 2014

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