Schizophrenia is a severe mental illness, characterized by hallucinations, delusions, and other startling symptoms. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that about 1.5% of people (4.8 million) will experience schizophrenia in their lifetime. Living with schizophrenia is extremely difficult. Those with the illness face rejection by loved ones, rejection by society, difficulty getting and keeping jobs, and difficulty caring for oneself.
Symptoms of Schizophrenia
The main categories of schizophrenia symptoms include delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, very disorganized behavior, lack of emotional response, lack of speech, and catatonia, or a state of abnormal immobility. Delusions might include things such as thinking that everyone is laughing at you, that your neighbors are spying on you, or that your family has been replaced by impostors. There are many flavors of hallucination that a person with schizophrenia might experience, and the hallucinations are uncontrollable. Possible hallucinations include:
- Monsters under the bed
- Figures moving in your peripheral vision
- Ticking noises
- Radio or TV sounds coming from another room
- Body parts falling off
- A voice in your head narrating your actions
- Multiple voices in your head talking to each other
High Suicide Rate
Schizophrenia has the highest suicide rate out of all mental illnesses. A person with schizophrenia is eight times more likely to commit suicide than the general population, with more than 40% of people with schizophrenia attempting suicide at least once. Around 15% of people with schizophrenia will eventually take their own lives. A person with schizophrenia may commit suicide when they are completely out of touch with reality due to their illness, when they are very depressed due to their illness, or after they realize they have schizophrenia and how difficult life is going to be.
Those who have schizophrenia are significantly more likely to commit acts of violence than those without the illness. This includes homicide. Up to 20% of people in U.S. jails and prisons are seriously mentally ill, and a good portion of this figure includes schizophrenics. Nevertheless, the idea that all schizophrenics are prone to violence is a harmful stigma. Although those with schizophrenia are statistically more likely to be violent, the vast majority of them are simply normal people who do not hurt others.
Another difficult aspect of living with schizophrenia is that the illness can prevent you from maintaining a normal life. Relationships with family and friends, work performance, nutrition, sleep, and personal hygiene can all suffer greatly. When a person realizes they have schizophrenia, their self-esteem usually plummets, further contributing to their depression and distress. Because schizophrenia so severely affects the ability to work and maintain a normal life, people with schizophrenia make up approximately one-third of the homeless population.
There Is Hope
Schizophrenia is possibly the most difficult mental illness to live with. However, with proper treatment, schizophrenia is something that can be overcome. The mainstay of schizophrenia treatment is antipsychotic medication. Some also take benzodiazepines to counteract agitation caused by the illness. However, comprehensive treatment should include medication as well as individual therapy, family therapy, and vocational rehabilitation. With lifelong treatment, those with schizophrenia can live normal, rewarding lives just like everybody else.