What Schizophrenia Is Not
Schizophrenia is not well understood. In fact, it might be one of the most misunderstood mental disorders in the DSM-IV.
It might be a syndrome or a collection of different but related diseases that have been grouped together, like cancer. It's also possible that the different subtypes might be variations of one underlying brain abnormality. The disease's secrets are slowly being revealed, but schizophrenia is still surrounded by stigma and misunderstanding.
Caused by bad parenting or bad upbringing
Caused by childhood trauma
Caused by poverty
Caused by laziness or personal weakness
Caused by drug abuse
The same as having a split personality
Sources: the British Columbia Mental Health and Addiction Services and the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression.
The Split Personality Myth
Perhaps the most common misconception about schizophrenia concerns the nature of the disease itself. Polls conducted in 2005 and 2008 suggest that between 40 percent and 64 percent of the general population believe having schizophrenia is the same as having a split personality. Split personality is an inaccurate term for what psychiatrists used to call multiple personality disorder but now call disso-ciative identity disorder, and it is a type of mental disorder entirely different from schizophrenia.
Dissociative personality disorder was made famous by the book and film versions of The Three Faces of Eve and Sybil, accounts of women who had experienced terrible abuse as children and developed multiple, distinct personalities as a result. These personalities coexist in one person and manifest themselves at different times. This is in no way similar to the psychotic episodes people with schizophrenia endure. The “split” in schizophrenia is a gap between reality and what a patient's hallucinations and delusions lead him to believe.
The Bad Drug Experience Myth
Some illegal drugs — for example, stimulants such as cocaine and amphetamine and hallucinogens such as LSD and psilocybin — may produce symptoms in some otherwise healthy users that are similar to those seen in schizophrenia. The drug effects are usually short-lived and most often disappear after a matter of hours or days. These experiences do not produce or result in schizophrenia. It is true, however, that people with schizophrenia are particularly sensitive to the effects of many illegal and some legal drugs, which can seriously compromise their physical and mental health and interfere with successful therapy.