Schizophrenia is a chronic mental illness that is characterized by excessive productions of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and glutamate, in the brain. The abnormal brain chemistry of schizophrenic individuals affects their perception of reality. The symptoms of this disorder can be positive, negative, or cognitive. Positive symptoms are the most recognized features of schizophrenia. The term “positive” is used to describe psychotic symptoms. These include hallucinations, delusions, and abnormal thought, speech, and movement patterns. Negative symptoms are more subtle and may be mistaken for signs of other mental illnesses such as depression. These symptoms include monotone speaking, lack of interest in activities, poor hygiene, and diminished speech. Cognitive symptoms are also subtle and are also commonly mistaken for signs of different disorders. These symptoms include poor executive function, poor working memory, and a lack of focus and concentration. Approximately one percent of American adults have schizophrenia (NIMH).
Schizophrenia is one of the most stigmatized mental illnesses in American society. Many people have heard of schizophrenia, but may not be familiar with the disorder and can therefore associate it with harmful stereotypes. In a recent study from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 21 percent of people surveyed stated that they would fear for their safety around a treated individual, and 71 percent would fear for their safety around an untreated individual. Furthermore, 60 percent of those surveyed stated that violent behavior is a prominent symptom of the disorder. These misconceptions and prejudices sta...
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...person, participants in the study had more negative views towards schizophrenic people than they did before viewing the episode (Graham). If even one episode of a TV show can affect people’s perceptions of schizophrenia, it can be assumed that consistent portrayals of schizophrenic people as violent can create a significant fear of individuals affected by the disorder.
While entertainment media can perpetuate harmful stereotypes, it can also be a valuable teaching tool. However, media cannot be used to inform people about schizophrenia if the portrayal of the disorder is based on myths and stereotypes. Accurate portrayals of schizophrenia in popular media, such as the recent television series Perception, which has been praised as “the most accurate media portrayal of schizophrenia ever seen, (Kaye)” may help to combat the stigma and fears surrounding the illness.
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