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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Debunking misconceptions surrounding schizophrenia

According to mental health experts, Hollywood and other popular media have contributed to a widespread misunderstanding and misrepresentation of schizophrenia.

The complex nature of the disorder, and its susceptibility to dramatic interpretations, may explain why so many misconceptions persist.

Schizophrenia is a mental health disorder that affects approximately one in 100 people, and it’s important to understand that it does not mean “split personality” or “multiple personalities.

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Although some symptoms of schizophrenia may overlap with those of dissociative identity disorder (DID), these two conditions should not be confused.

It’s crucial to dispel these myths and educate the public about the realities of schizophrenia to reduce stigma and improve support for those living with the disorder.

Moustafa Kamel, the Medical Affairs Director of Janssen South Africa, aims to bring clarity to misconceptions surrounding schizophrenia and has emphasised the differences between bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

According to Kamel, while these two mental health conditions share similarities and may result in changes in mood, thinking, and behaviour, the specific symptoms are unique to each condition.

Support is important for anyone suffering from mental health disorders. Picture supplied

Bipolar disorder, for example, is a mood disorder that results in extreme mood changes, from mania to depression.

Manic episodes are characterised by elevated mood, energy, and activity levels, while depression brings feelings of hopelessness and disinterest in activities. Individuals with bipolar disorder might experience only mania or depression.

While schizophrenia, on the other hand, involves distinct symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, abnormal behaviour, and disordered thinking.

It is important to understand these differences, so people seek appropriate help for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan for their mental health concerns, said Kamel.

“Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that causes people to lose touch with reality. People with schizophrenia may experience hallucinations, which are seeing or hearing things that are not there, or delusions, which are false beliefs. They may also have difficulty thinking clearly, concentrating, and making decisions,” he added.

“There is an inaccurate portrayal of this condition, there is a stigma associated with it, like many other mental conditions. Such as those individuals living with schizophrenia are dangerous, whereas they are no more dangerous or violent than other people in the general population.”

He pointed out that while schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are two separate disorders, they can occasionally be confused with one another. This is because some of the symptoms of the two conditions overlap.

He revealed schizophrenia is strongly influenced by genetics and environmental factors like stressful family conditions and cannabis consumption.

He explained that the condition’s intensity and symptoms vary from patient to patient, making diagnosis, treatment, and caregiving a complex process.

But with careful treatment approaches, most schizophrenia symptoms can greatly diminish, and adequate treatment regimens can lead to a reduced likelihood of recurrence.

Charlene Sunkel, founder and CEO of Global Mental Health Peer Network, and someone who has lived with schizophrenia, has spoken out about the challenges faced by individuals with this mental health condition.

She highlighted that schizophrenia is one of the most misunderstood and stigmatised mental health conditions, which can harm a person’s recovery journey.

“I live with schizophrenia, I am a person first, I am not defined by my diagnosis, and I am able to have mental health and wellbeing despite my diagnosis.

“Persons living with schizophrenia must know that they are worthy of life, support, and a safe and empathic society,” said Sunkel.

Additionally, scientists are working to figure out the disease’s root causes by examining genetics, investigating human behaviour, and employing cutting-edge imaging to examine the structure and operation of the brain. These strategies provide the possibility of developing fresh, effective treatments.

It’s far from a bleak situation, despite the fact that the condition is chronic and has no known cure.

Long-acting antipsychotics, which have only recently been discovered, allow patients to take their drugs less frequently while still getting more consistent and dependable results, said Kamel.

Read the latest issue of HEALTH digital magazine here.

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