The Top 10 Things Not to Say Around People With Schizophrenia
Interacting with someone who is schizophrenic can sometimes be difficult if he or she is having trouble paying attention or understanding you, but the key to communicating is staying calm. Listen actively just as you would any other person. Remember that even if someone suffers from schizophrenia, he is still human and should be treated as any other person.
Schizophrenia is a chronic brain disorder that can include symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, and thought and movement disorders. Contrary to what many people believe, schizophrenia does not involve multiple personalities. Here are 10 things you should avoid saying to someone who has schizophrenia:
1. You’re just being delusional.
This one goes right along with “You’re crazy.” One of the symptoms of schizophrenia can be delusions or hallucinations. Not every schizophrenic suffers from them, but those who do can often sound far-fetched and illogical. While you may know that your pizza is perfectly fine, a schizophrenic may adamantly believe it was poisoned and refuse to eat it. Arguing against this delusion will simply agitate the person more. The best thing to do is to let her talk—don’t encourage the delusion, but be aware and show your understanding.
2. I thought schizophrenia was when people had multiple personalities.
One of the many stigmas of the disease is that it involves having multiple personalities. It doesn’t. That disease, commonly known as Multiple Personality Disorder and more recently named Dissociative Identity Disorder, is controversial and often misunderstood due to lack of knowledge of symptoms or treatment. Someone with DID has one or more personalities that control his or her behavior and also impairs memory. The two disorders can often get confused and misdiagnosed, but there are distinct differences between the two.
3. You don’t look sick.
Just because a person seems physically-fit and healthy doesn’t necessarily mean he or she isn’t affected by a disease. Schizophrenia is a disorder that generally affects the brain, not the body itself. In addition, not every schizophrenic is able to understand that he is unwell. Telling him that he isn’t can cause undue stress.
4. Do the voices tell you to do bad things?
Again, not every person is affected by schizophrenia in the same way. Some hear voices, known as auditory hallucinations; some do not. Sometimes the voices can insist on terrible things or say things you wouldn’t want to think about. However, the schizophrenic knows that what she hears is wrong, and does not act on the suggestions.
5. Why don’t you just not listen to the voices?
The voices that schizophrenics hear are not like a person they can simply turn away from – the voices are constantly in their heads and it is not possible for a schizophrenic to simply “turn them off.”
6. Did you take your medication?
Unless you are a direct caregiver, this question is a no-no. Medications – generally antipsychotics – are important to controlling the symptoms of the disease, but they don’t cure it. Currently, there is no cure for schizophrenia, although researchers continue to search for the main cause and cure. There are many medications available for schizophrenics to try, but each one has a different effect on each individual. Schizophrenia is not like a common cold, cured in just a week or two with the proper treatment. People who have schizophrenia have it for their entire lives.
7. You have kids?
Yes, it is possible for individuals living with schizophrenia to find love, get married, and have children. Although the disease is genetic and there is a chance that children can inherit it, schizophrenia is a disease that allows a person to live a normal, although somewhat altered life.
8. Are you dangerous?
Psychotic episodes can be frightening for the people around a schizophrenic, but it is probably just as scary for the schizophrenic herself. The National Institute of Mental Health notes that most schizophrenics are not violent. Those who are are often not violent directly because of their illness. There is a small percentage of those diagnosed with the disease that may be depressed or have thoughts of suicide. And sometimes, those who hear voices, hear voices that tell them to do hurtful things – but the schizophrenic can decide to not act on those voices.
9. Snap out of it!
A schizophrenic cannot simply “snap out of it.” His disease can make him believe certain things that are not real or even understandable. But what may seem utterly illogical to you is very real to the schizophrenic.
10. Do you really think you’re possessed?
Similar to telling a schizophrenic that he’s crazy or delusional, showing your disbelief in a schizophrenic’s own beliefs will not help him or her. Although you know your loved one is obviously a normal human being untouched by demons, he can adamantly assert that he is so afflicted. Don’t argue, simply listen and move on.