This one will be a little harder for me to talk about. Schizophrenia has a lot of negative associations with it, and it’s seriously misunderstood by a lot of people because of misrepresentation in the media and other sources.
“Schizo” means split or division. “-phrenia” means the mind.
By these definitions, it could sound that schizophrenia is dissociative identity disorder, or multiple personalities. I don’t know a whole lot about DID, having no personal experience with it, but a key difference between these two is that schizophrenia is a thought disorder, where DID is a personality disorder (I believe there is a difference between the two).
Symptoms of schizophrenia can include:
- hallucinations – auditory, visual, etc.;
- disorganized thinking
- flat affect
- intrusive thoughts
- social withdrawal
- suicidal thoughts
I would experience all of these things before I was medicated, and I still struggle with some of them. Before being diagnosed and treated, my primary symptom was auditory hallucinations, or hearing things. The most common auditory hallucination is hearing voices, as I did.
A schizophrenic is more likely to hurt themselves than to hurt others, unlike most of what the media says. It is a miserable illness that creates a miserable reality for those afflicted. Treating it can be difficult, and most antipsychotic medications have undesired side effects or long-term effects. That can be expected of any medication to some extent – pretty much every medication will list seizures as a possible side effect, for example, even though it’s usually highly unlikely. My personal belief is that a lot of medications have to list such side effects to cover their own ass, just in case. I’ve never seen a medication not list suicidal thoughts as one, either. Every medication has some sort of possible drawback, so when choosing whether to be treated with medication, it’s usually a weighing of pros and cons. But I digress.
One medication I was previously taking caused some weight gain and urinary incontinence. Embarrassing and discouraging side effects, though not overly common ones. Another antipsychotic I was on only mildly controlled the psychotic symptoms but made me too tired to function. The last one I was on failed to control the psychotic symptoms and also made me fall asleep within minutes. I’m retrying one I originally tried 5 years ago now. Sometimes, a medication can have different effects after time has passed, and just because one medication worked or didn’t work for one person doesn’t mean it will affect another person the same way.
A lot of doctors, when there’s a family history of an illness, will try starting you on the medication that your family member is already taking if it is effective for them. This is one reason they ask about family history when doing new patient intake. Having an idea of a starting point for starting treatment is better than none, and every medication is different.
To some people, needing medication is a sign of weakness or something to be looked down on. But it’s nothing to be ashamed of. If you need medication as a support, there is nothing wrong with that. I’ve been on prescription medications since 4th grade for chronic migraines and other things. Mental illness is just like any other illness – and if treatment is the best way to go forward, then medication can be a solid option to aid in fixing brain chemistry. Even if you start to take a medication, there are chances of being able to get off of it in the future. Schizophrenia can be managed through medication and aggressive treatment. Medication isn’t a fun requirement exactly, and it’s okay to not want to need it, but there’s nothing wrong with helping your brain chemistry – dopamine, serotonin, receptors and blockers and stuff, other brain chemicals that affect mood and thought – get to a “normal” and stable level.
To be continued…