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Schizophrenia Myths

Top 10 Misconceptions About Schizophrenia

By , Caring.com senior editor
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Schizophrenia is much more common than most people think. According to the World Federation of Mental Health (WFMH), schizophrenia affects one in every 100 people. But schizophrenia remains largely mysterious, because science still can't explain how brain circuits misfire in those with schizophrenia. And schizophrenia is scary because it typically doesn't start until adolescence or early adulthood, and it can come on quite suddenly.

"Here we have a disease beginning at this time of life -- just as people are graduating from school or reaching for their independence -- which, if left untreated, really can derail their lives," says Dolores Malaspina, MD, a professor of psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine.

Part of the problem with recognizing schizophrenia is the stigma that's still attached to serious mental illness; people who have a close relative with the disease are often ashamed to talk about it. Meanwhile, the most extreme cases -- the ones involving violence and wild delusions -- are the ones that make it into the news headlines. Here are the top 10 misconceptions about schizophrenia and what you really need to know.

Myth: People With Schizophrenia Are Psychotic

In many cases, it takes a psychotic episode to bring schizophrenia to the attention of family and friends. But not all people with schizophrenia are psychotic. And not all psychoses are caused by schizophrenia. What's the difference? Psychosis is defined as breaking with reality; someone might hear voices, become obsessed with false ideas, see things that aren't there, or have paranoid delusions. Some people with schizophrenia have these symptoms, but others have a different set of symptoms. Meanwhile, people with bipolar disorder or major depressive disorder can become psychotic, as can those addicted to drugs.