Mental Misconceptions

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Mental Misconceptions

“…if we do nothing, then maybe it will get better- maybe its just a

phase.” This appears to be a very common misconception in families of

people with schizophrenia. Although the reality is that, if left

untreated, the schizophrenic stands a greater chance of suffering

permanent brain damage. Like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease,

schizophrenia is a disease of the brain, in which the brain is

physically damaged, and unfortunately symptoms of the disease usually

appear quite late. MRI scans of a schizophrenic, show a degeneration

in the volume of grey matter in the brain, and recently

neuroscientists have detected grey matter loss of up to 25%. Grey

matter is tissue of the nervous system, thus largely found in the

brain, rich in nerve cells, which transmit messages or impulses all

over the body.

The word “schizophrenia” is less than one hundred years old and comes

from the Greek roots, “schizo” meaning to split and “phrene” meaning

mind, which is supposed to convey the fragmented thinking of people

with the disorder.

Significant loss of grey matter causes severe symptoms of

schizophrenia including, hallucinations, delusions, psychotic thoughts

and depression. Schizophrenics may also have difficulty in expressing

emotions, have slurred speech and feel suicidal. One schizophrenic

commented that “the nurses and doctors were plotting to kill me.”

Treatment for the disorder is largely in the form of anti-psychotic

medication, but anti-depressants and mood-stabilisers are also

available. Rehabilitation programs, cognitive therapy and peer

support groups are also effective means of rebuilding a r...

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...d. We find

ourselves accepting diseases or disorders of the brain which may also

leave one mentally impaired, such as brain tumours or meningitis, but

people often appear dismissive and tense towards mental illnesses.

Perhaps our fear prevails us from learning more about mental health.

Or do we already have an image fixated in our minds of what a “mental”

person is like, which frightens us more…not “normal,” but psychotic,

who’s only emotions are anger and disconcertion; sectioned in a

psychiatric hospital?

Rising above our ignorance allows society to learn more about

schizophrenia and in exploring the unknown, our fears change to

interest and our misconceptions to understanding as future research

and treatments provide reassurance and hope to those living in fear.

*NIMH: National Institute of Mental Health
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