Myth: People with schizophrenia have split /several personalities.
(or) Schizophrenia is the same as multiple personality disorder.
Fact: The term ‘multiple personality disorder’ refers to a condition in which people have different, well-defined temporary identities. A person with multiple personality disorder may behave like different people at different points of time.
Schizophrenia is a disorder of brain in which the person has lost touch with reality, and has symptoms like delusions, hallucinations, and bizarre beliefs. A person with schizophrenia has only one personality. The ‘split’ refers to the fact that their thinking, feeling and behaving may not be consistent / congruent with one another (e.g., laughing while recollecting a sad story).
Myth: All persons with schizophrenia have the same illness.
Fact: Not all patients who have schizophrenia experience the same type of illness. There are different types of schizophrenia with different types of symptoms, and different courses of progress.
Myth: People with schizophrenia are dangerous; they can be very aggressive and harm themselves or the people around them.
Fact: Schizophrenia sometimes can cause a person to behave in a violent manner, but not all with schizophrenia are violent. It is only a small minority of persons that are violent. Even these people are not violent all the time; they may become violent mostly when they are very ill. After a proper diagnosis and appropriate medication, a person with schizophrenia is no more or less violent than a person who does not have the disorder.
Improved patients who are on treatment are no more dangerous than the general population.
Myth: Schizophrenia is caused by bad parenting, or abuse during childhood.
Fact: Schizophrenia is not caused by bad parenting or abuse. The occurrence of schizophrenia is linked to the structure of the brain, and other risk factors: genetic, physical, emotional and social. Adolescence is a period where some structural changes take place in the brain. One of the theories is that due to some faulty disruption that happens in the brain during adolescence, the teenager may be more vulnerable to developing the illness if other risk factors are also present.
Myth: People with schizophrenia need to be cared for in a hospital.
Fact: Not all people with schizophrenia need to be hospitalized. The family can care for the person at home, by understanding the disorder and learning what kind of support the person needs, while diligently following the advice of the mental health professionals.
(This section has been curated with inputs from Dr Jagadisha Thirthahalli, professor of psychiatry, NIMHANS, Bangalore, and Dr Avinash V Waghmare, assistant professor, department of psychiatry, Smt Kashibai Navale Medical College, Pune.)