Possibly the most misunderstood illness by the general population is schizophrenia.
Because psychosis is prevalent in Schizophrenia. it has become accepted by many people that those who suffer from schizophrenia are dangerous.
The truth is often far from these common beliefs, and in some cases, it is, in fact, the polar opposite. Yes, schizophrenia generally includes psychotic episodes but in most cases, these episodes are more frightening for the people experiencing them than for those around them.
The key difference between the individuals sensationalized in headline media stories, and the much more common real experience of many people diagnosed with schizophrenia, is a simple word “Untreated”.
When treated, the symptoms of schizophrenia can, in most cases, be controlled and recovery can be expected. Not everyone returns to their full state of pre-illness functioning, but some do, and many others go on to lived fulfilled and happy lives. However, when untreated the symptoms can be overwhelming to the individual causing loss of contact with reality, and possible violent reactions in response to their perceptions.
Schizophrenia can exhibit both positive and negative symptoms. Positive symptoms are those symptoms that add to the person such as delusions, paranoia, and hallucinations. Negative symptoms are those that take away from the personality such as loss of motivation, diminished emotional response and social withdrawal. In addition, there can also be cognitive symptoms or deficiencies such as distorted perceptions, disorganized thinking or speech, and disorganized behavior. Often the executive functions of the brain are affected which control things like decision making and task sequencing.
The primary treatment for symptoms of schizophrenia is medication, however, other treatment methods are also used. Although medications have improved over recent years, it is often a difficult and lengthy process to determine the correct type and dose of medication. Not all people respond the same to the various choices of medication. The symptoms may not be totally alleviated by medication, but they are often controlled enough that they no longer seriously affect the individual's daily life.
It is very important to understand that recovery is much more than reducing the symptoms but also involves re-integration into society and in many cases re-learning lost skills.