Causes and Characteristics of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. According to the National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI), “people with schizophrenia may seem like they have lost touch with reality, which can be distressing for them and for their family and friends.”

The term ‘schizophrenia’ meaning “a splitting of the mind ”was coined in 1910 by Swiss psychiatrist, Dr. Paul Eugen Bleuer. The symptoms present differently in men versus women and children versus adults. Yet, these significant differences aren’t always seen in films and television programs that over simplify characters with schizophrenia without illustrating the complexities of the condition.

The first film that comes to mind when I think about schizophrenia is A Beautiful Mind. The movie based on the life of American mathematician and Nobel Prize winner John Nash was criticized by many for its inaccurate portrayal of Nash’s mental health. Nash, himself, said the movie showed him relying on medication longer than he really did. He also said he believed psychotropic drugs are overrated. Still, it’s worth noting that the idea of ignoring your schizophrenia symptoms, as portrayed in the movie, isn’t a medically supported treatment plan. (FHAhealth.com). 

May 24 is World Schizophrenia Day.  The purpose of this day is to spread awareness about this illness affecting more than 21million people worldwide and eliminating the myths around mental illnesses in general. 

Schizophrenia usually starts in late adolescence or early adulthood between the ages of 15 to 28. Men are at higher risk of suffering than women and tend to suffer from a more severe form of the disease with less chance of a full recovery.

Schizophrenia should not be confused with multiple personality disorder (technically termed dissociative identity disorder). The main characteristic of dissociative disorder is that people become disconnected from their sense of self, resulting in memory and identity loss.

In the 1976 movie, Sybil, played by Sally Fields, admits to having blackouts to her psychiatrist played by Joanne Woodward. Throughout the film, the audience is exposed to 13 different personalities within Sybil.

Childhood schizophrenia or early-onset schizophrenia affects those under the age of 13 and.
is extremely rare and difficult to diagnose since the symptoms are similar to many other mental health conditions.

Brain structure, family history and genetics all increase a child’s risk for developing schizophrenia. 

Treatment for Schizophrenia 

According to the experts, schizophrenia “requires lifelong treatment, even when symptoms have subsided. Treatment with medications and psychosocial therapy can help manage the condition. In some cases, hospitalization may be needed.” (www.mayoclinic.org)

For more information on diagnosing and treatment of schizophrenia, visit www.nami.org. If you would like to share your personal experience with schizophrenia, please contact me at schonercandace@gmail.com.