Schizophrenia Is Not “Split Personality”
There is a common notion that schizophrenia is the same as “split personality”
– a Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde switch in character.
This is not correct.
News and entertainment media tend to link mental illnesses including schizophrenia to criminal violence. Most people with schizophrenia, however, are not violent toward others but are withdrawn and prefer to be left alone. Drug or alcohol abuse raises the risk of violence in people with schizophrenia, particularly if the illness is untreated, but also in people who have no mental illness.
Throughout recorded history, the disease we now know as schizophrenia has been a source of bewilderment. Those suffering from the illness once were thought to be possessed by demons and were feared, tormented, exiled or locked up forever. In spite of advances in the understanding of its causes, course and treatment, schizophrenia continues to confound both health professionals and the public. It is easier for the average person to cope with the idea of cancer than it is to understand the odd behavior, hallucinations or strange ideas of the person with schizophrenia.
The first signs of schizophrenia often appear as confusing, or even shocking, changes in behavior. Coping with the symptoms of schizophrenia can be especially difficult for family members who remember how involved or vivacious a person was before they became ill. The sudden onset of severe psychotic symptoms is referred to as an “acute” phase of schizophrenia. “Psychosis,” a common condition in schizophrenia, is a state of mental impairment marked by hallucinations, which are disturbances of sensory perception, and/or delusions, which are false yet strongly held personal beliefs that result from an inability to separate real from unreal experiences. Less obvious symptoms, such as social isolation or withdrawal, or unusual speech, thinking, or behavior, may precede, be seen along with, or follow the psychotic symptoms.
Some people have only one such psychotic episode; others have many episodes during a lifetime, but lead relatively normal lives during the interim periods. However, the individual with “chronic” schizophrenia, or a continuous or recurring pattern of illness, often does not fully recover normal functioning and typically requires long-term treatment, generally including medication, to control the symptoms.