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Schizophrenia and stigma

Living-with-schizophrenia2What is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder diagnosed when

  • You’re constantly apprehensive and on the edge, holding delusional beliefs such as the rest of the world is out to get you
  • You often experience hallucinations – sights, sounds, smells and scenarios that actually do not exist making you fearful, overly-cautious and confused
  • You show a distinct lack of interest in things
  • You are feeling disconnected from your feelings

What are the most common symptoms of Schizophrenia?

Delusions and hallucinations are among the most prominent symptoms of schizophrenia. Though they are wrongly quite often used interchangeably, delusions are not the same as hallucinations.

A delusion is a strong belief held by a person, although it is most likely not true. Delusions are false beliefs, such as everyone out in the world is out to cause suffering and anguish to you, or that a particular statement made by a public figure, advertisement or anyone in general, is directed towards you, when it really is not. There are other delusions experienced as well, such as that of being important and famous, or that of your actions and thoughts being controlled by an alien being and not by yourself.

A hallucination is a situation, sound, vision or smell that does not exist in the real world, but only in one’s mind. Hearing voices is the most recurring hallucination. In such a situation, you often hear voices that others don’t. These voices are often abusive, vulgar and unsympathetic, and mostly manifestations of your own innermost thoughts, perceived as coming from an external source. A patient with schizophrenia can also suffer from frequent visual hallucinations.

Schizophrenia and stigma

A person recently diagnosed with schizophrenia may not expect the people that surround him to see him differently or change their behavior towards him. But, due to negative media portrayals, most people think that people with schizophrenia are dangerous, hard to talk to and not very easily approachable.

Social stigma is characterized by prejudices and discrimination towards a person living with schizophrenia. It contributes to the person’s definition of self, and forces the person to feel ashamed and inferior, in a way. This leads to predetermined failure and alienation from friends, family and the society at large. Alienation strengthens the pull of the mental illness on one’s mind.

One of the key methods to overcoming schizophrenia- or any other form of mental illness is to overcome the stigma itself. If not diagnosed in time, it can lead to self-destruction.

Treatment and Intervention

A widely held misconception regarding schizophrenia is that it is not treatable. This is not true.

In the early stages when you are diagnosed with schizophrenia is the ideal time to intervene and even stop the progression of the illness. The fact that a newly diagnosed person remains mildly unaffected by stigma as of yet, benefits him.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is one of the therapeutic treatments available, which helps identify connections between thoughts, feelings and behaviour. It also helps in developing practical skills to manage any negative patterns of thinking or behaviour that are causing you difficulties. CBT can benefit patients with schizophrenia by:

  • helping with coping strategies to deal with the symptoms of psychosis such as hearing voices or delusions
  • easing stress so that your symptoms don’t get aggravated
  • managing the side effects of medication, such as weight gain
  • helps one manage social anxiety and depression, often associated with schizophrenia

Remember, schizophrenia is not the end of the world. It can be treated; you can live a normal life like any other normal person. If your loved one suffers from Schizophrenia, you can help them help themselves.

All you have to do is reach out for help and seek treatment. Speak your mind.

 

 

 

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