Take five: Common Myths about Schizophrenia

I was diagnosed with First Episode Psychosis two years ago. The most well-known psychotic disorder is Schizophrenia and I have many symptoms of this illness, but I have avoided further diagnoses and instead prefer to call myself a Voice Hearer. But it seems no matter what name I give it, people have many misconceptions about what it actually means to have psychosis. So, here are five common myths that I will bust…

  1. I am angry

I am not angry. Well, sometimes I am, but isn’t everyone occasionally? What I am trying to say is that psychosis does not equal angry i.e. psychotic rage. This is the most frequent time I hear the word psychotic or ‘psycho’ being used, for example the psychotic ex-girlfriend who logged into your Facebook account and demanded ransom, or the guy who went total pscyho on you when you bumped into his car. Yes, these people are annoying. No, these people are not psychotic. Unless, of course, they also have hallucinations or paranoia. The ratio of angry ex-girlfriends to people diagnosed with psychosis for some reason don’t match up though.

Bottom line: please don’t use psychotic to mean angry.

2. I am violent

Thanks to the media, schizophrenics are portrayed as ‘the bad guy’. They’re more often than not featuring in crime shows as the serial killer. Voice Hearers are very rarely shown to be non-violent, everyday citizens. Statistics show that schizophrenics are much more a danger to themselves through high self-harm and suicide rates, than to members of the public. Add in the danger of being a victim of crime, and you can see that psychotic persons are more likely to be subjected to violence than be a perpetrator.

Bottom line: please don’t be scared of psychotic people as we are no more violent than a neuro-typical.

3. I have split personality

This is a big ‘un. Schizophrenia, although literally meaning ‘split mind’, is not the same as split personality. Psychosis is a condition where you can have hallucinations, such as hearing voices, have delusions and maybe experience paranoid and disordered thoughts. This is entirely different to having multiple personalities. The voices in my head are separate to me, and I am able to maintain my own personality throughout.

Bottom line: please remember that schizophrenia =/= split personality disorder.

4. I want to get rid of my voices

This is an incredibly personal decision and down to the individual. Personally, voice hearing is a part of my identity and I have a good relationship with Ezra and Emily, my two main voices. Emily comforts me when I am upset and protects me during panic attacks and flashbacks. Ezra provides insight into my fears and enables me to process my emotions. Aside from that, she is very witty! Therefore, I am happy to keep my voices. Others are not and medicate them away, but this is entirely their choice.

Bottom line: please respect my choice to keep my voices.

5. I cannot recover

When people hear the word Schizophrenia, they think of screaming people in straight jackets. They cannot believe that someone as boring and ordinary as me could be a voice hearer. The truth is that most psychotic people are walking about living ordinary lives. With a combination of medication and talking therapies, psychotics are able to recover. Remember that recovery does not necessarily mean that the person gets rid of their voices entirely, but usually means that they can live autonomous and happy lives.

Bottom line: please do not pity me, I am living a fulfilled life.

I hope this has got rid of some misconceptions about psychosis. Please feel free to comment or email any questions you have about this.

Peace and Love

Elliot

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