Most people associate the word “schizophrenia” with its positive symptoms–hearing voices, seeing visions, having paranoid thoughts. However, negative symptoms can be as difficult as positive symptoms. Negative symptoms refer to symptoms where something is less than expected, such as one’s face showing less emotions than average, one having less ability to get things started, and having less interest in activities than one used to.
For years, there have been medications that target positive symptoms, but there aren’t many medications that target negative symptoms, and they are not always effective. However, the research continues, and now there’s more hope on the horizon for treatment of negative symptoms. An article cited on ScienceDaily.com from the European College of Neuropsychopharma-cology sheds more light on these medications and what they can do.
Unless they have a personal connection with schizophrenia, most people have a very poor understanding of schizophrenia, what it involves, and how common it is. Most of my schizophrenia clients are surprised to hear that, in the greater Twin Cities area, there are probably around 20,000-30,000 people with schizophrenia. People who don’t know a person with the illness often think of schizophrenia as causing violence, multiple personalities, and an inability to function like an adult. NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) has done an extensive survey about Americans’ understanding of the knowledge, along with a report about what’s needed to increase understanding and some video clips outlining the true lives of people with schizophrenia.
It’s no surprise people know so little about the illness–there’s always been a terrible stigma about all kinds of mental illness, and schizophrenia is one of the most stigmatized. In recent decades, more and more Americans have become familiar with illnesses like Major Depression, ADHD, and Autism Spectrum Disorders. But in general, people remain ignorant about schizophrenia. It seems like the only time the word “schizophrenia” comes up in the media is to report a crime or other negative story regarding people with the illness. We all know that in the news, negative sells better than positive, which may be why the general public has no knowledge of the millions of Americans with schizophrenia who get treated and live normal, everyday lives. (Imagine the headline: “Local woman with schizophrenia takes meds, lives a quiet life, enjoys bowling!” Ha!)
As time goes on and more and more mental illnesses come into Americans’ understanding, I hope that people affected by the illness and people who help treat the illness take the time to stop and share their stories about people with schizophrenia. I look forward to the day when the vast majority of people understand and accept that it is a treatable illness, that people with schizophrenia are like anyone else in most ways, and that people with schizophrenia, especially when getting the right treatment, can live regular lives in our communities as positive members of society.
An interesting look at the newer treatments for people early on in their illness. The University of MN Psychiatry clinic has some treatments specifically tailored for those new to schizophrenia.
NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) recently took over the Tumblr site Ok2Talk.org. Ok2Talk.org is a fantastic resource for young people with schizophrenia and other disorders to get support and information about their illness and getting treatment for it.
> Visit http://ok2talk.org/