Schizophrenia is one of the most stigmatized mental illnesses that there are, next to Borderline Personality Disorder and Dissociative Identity Disorder. These illnesses are just that, illnesses. The symptoms and presentations of these disorders are often under no control by the individual who is battling them. Often times, people allow their stigmatized views of the disease guide their understanding of the disorder. And to be honest, that just leads to further stigmatization of the disorder.
Truths About Schizophrenia
I’ve often heard from people that they view schizophrenia as something that causes the individual to be a danger to society and violent or aggressive toward others. But that is just not the case. These individuals are often terrified by their own thoughts and symptoms, and they fear that others are a danger to themselves. Because of the stigma around schizophrenia and related disorders, these individuals often struggle with finding meaningful relationships and even adequate care.
In reality, these people need the love and support of others to help them reach the stage of “recovery” or even just stabilization. Schizophrenia is not curable. It isn’t like depression or anxiety that can be fully managed by medication or psychotherapy.
Schizophrenia requires life-long maintenance and treatment. Often times, the best treatment for schizophrenia and similar disorders is medication. Which is unfortunate, but if you think of it in terms of other physical illnesses, it’s not much different.
Symptoms of Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia presents as multiple different symptoms, and each individual will suffer from different combinations of these symptoms. The symptoms that often fuel the stigma around the disease include hallucinations and delusions.
The real issue is that people aren’t willing to learn more about what a hallucination or delusion is for that individual. These don’t present the same for every individual, and some can be tolerable to the individual while others pose a danger to him or her.
Symptoms of schizophrenia include hallucinations, delusions, loss of affect or ability to perform voluntary movements. These individuals can also lose their ability to form proper sentences or speak in a coherent manner.
Can you imagine knowing what you want to say or explain to someone and not being able to form a coherent sentence? I don’t, and I wouldn’t want to.
But that isn’t to say that everyone suffers these exact symptoms. Some individuals with schizophrenia or related illnesses can live normal, high-functioning lifestyles. And for some, they may even see a semblance of recovery.
The primary symptoms of schizophrenia are hallucinations, delusions, disorganized thought or speech, disorganized or unusual motor behavior, lack of emotional expression, lack of ability to perform voluntary tasks, diminished ability to speak, and lack of ability to receive pleasure from once enjoyed activities.
Other Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorders
The most prominent feature of schizoaffective disorder is the fact that while these individuals meet some criteria for schizophrenia, they don’t meet all but do have major mood episodes, whether it be major depression or mania.
These individuals not only have to suffer from the major symptoms of schizophrenia, they also have to learn to manage intense episodes of strong moods/emotions. The illness itself can be depression inducing, but with schizoaffective, the depression could be a major tenet of the illness itself.
Schizotypal Personality Disorder
Schizotypal personality disorder is a bit different from other disorders similar to schizophrenia. These individuals have difficulty with and discomfort toward close relationships. They can present with a lowered capacity for holding close relationships. On top of their inability to bond with others, they also struggle with cognitive and perceptual distortions and eccentric behavior. Their behavior can seem abnormal or odd to others.
Schizophreniform is very similar to schizophrenia in that the symptoms are exactly the same. These individuals will suffer the same symptoms, but it is not as long-lasting as schizophrenia. In schizophreniform disorder, the individual displays symptoms for between one to six months. The symptoms then subside, although not for good. Their symptoms can return again, and they yet again go through the same month to six months of schizophrenic symptoms.
Related: Rosario’s Story
Spotlight on Recovery – Schizoaffective Disorder
As you can tell, individuals who suffer from a schizophrenic spectrum disorder have great difficulty in many areas of their lives. These individuals often times don’t have the skills to get the help they need, and because of misunderstandings can be misconstrued as violent or dangerous.
But there is light in this wall of darkness. A functioning life is possible. And that is exactly what I want to bring you today, a bit of light and happiness.
Kaitlyn, of Perplexing Purple, has agreed to share her personal struggle with schizoaffective disorders. She feels as though she is in a good place in terms of her disorder and has expressed a feeling of recovery from the disorder.
While I don’t know her personally, I have to say that I am proud of her. Reaching this point with such a difficult mental illness takes a lot of work and courage. And not to mention hope.
I have Schizoaffective disorder. This is a combination of Schizophrenia and a mood disorder, in my case Major Depression. I was diagnosed in April of 2017 at the age of 20. However, I’ve been hearing voices and having visual and tactile hallucinations since I was 10. I just didn’t know what to call it until recently.
Being diagnosed made me accept my mental health disorder. I wasn’t worried about being labeled. I was only thinking that now I would be getting the help that I needed. Although sometimes I do find it difficult when I have to tell people about my disorder. Schizophrenia can be a daunting diagnosis.
A Turning Point to Treatment & Continued Motivation
I first knew I needed treatment when I was contemplating suicide. I was having suicidal thoughts all the time and I was super scared that I would act on them. I then went to a mental hospital and then a partial hospitalization program. Altogether that took about 6 weeks. That time was hard but it was all beneficial in the end.
The biggest thing for me in being motivated to recover was going on medication. Medication has helped me cope better with my symptoms and made my voices go a lot quieter. It doesn’t get rid of everything but it just makes it easier to live my daily life. I went on my current medication about a month ago and it has helped me so much.
Counseling has also been a big factor in keeping me motivated in my recovery. But being ready for counseling was the biggest step in this journey. I wasn’t able to properly talk about anything before but now I can have a real conversation with a therapist and not burst into tears. I am really proud of myself for this. I also feel ready to talk more openly with my parents when I need help.
Although I still have my bad days. My recovery hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows. Although I wish it was. I am still in recovery and will always be. Sometimes I have set backs and sometimes I have trouble knowing how to react to them. I now feel more accepting towards my diagnosis than I did at first.
I still hear voices sometimes. The other night I heard a woman’s voice. However, she was talking in a calm manner and was saying positive, soothing things instead of the usual commanding male voice I am used to. Sometimes I still have visual hallucinations. The walls will shake and move and get bigger or smaller. I still find it difficult to concentrate during my visual disturbances.
Even though I have schizoaffective disorder I am still me and I’m still human. I may have setbacks but I will always try to overcome them. If you are struggling and thinking about treatment, I say go for it. You never know what will help you feel better. And know that it will get better.
Ending Mental Illness Stigma
Because Kaitlyn is a warrior of mental illness, she also likes to spread awareness through her own blog. Kaitlyn is the owner of Perplexing Purple. I strongly urge you to check her blog out and see what else she has to say. You can even find her on Instagram and Twitter.