Mental health: 10 misconceptions about schizophrenia


This mental illness causes many unjustified fears. Double personality, dangerousness, insertion into active life … Prof. Fabrice Berna, psychiatrist, helps us unravel the truth of the false about schizophrenia.

Mental health: 10 misconceptions about schizophrenia

Schizophrenia affects approximately 600,000 people in France. It usually begins at the end of adolescence. Professor Fabrice Berna, a psychiatrist at the Strasbourg University Hospital Center and co-coordinator of the Schizophrenia Expert Center network of the FondaMental foundation, dismantles the most common misconceptions.

1- It is an inherited disease

“The hereditary factor plays a role but does not explain the whole disease. Many environmental factors increase the risk of schizophrenia. Thus the use of drugs or cannabis precipitates the entry into the disease. Other risk factors are added to a genetic vulnerability : an infection or a significant stress during pregnancy, violence during childhood … ”

2- It is the fault of the mother

“This theory is unfounded. It was not only about schizophrenia but also about autism. She was completely defeated. The only ones risk factors related to the mother are medical items (such as an infection during pregnancy) that have nothing to do with the relationship between a mother and her child. ”

3- Schizophrenics have a dual personality

“The disorder of multiple personalities is debated in the scientific community. We talk about it in movies and in the media, but it has nothing to do with schizophrenia. In schizophrenia, there are no alternations of personalities. The disease is characterized by delusions, hallucinations, a social withdrawal, a disorganization of behavior and thought, difficulties in expressing emotions, or lack of motivation. Patients are, moreover, often mistaken for lazy people; while their lack of motivation is just one of the symptoms of their illness. ”

4- They hear voices: we can not do anything

“It’s true, patients with schizophrenia often hear voices. But it’s not specific to schizophrenia. Many people felt that they were called by their first name and turned around when there was no one there. Hear voices, it is treated well by drugs, cognitive-behavioral therapies or again Transcranial magnetic stimulation (RTMS). A patient can learn to manage them over time. An association, the French Network on Voice Agreement, has developed techniques to control these voices and learn to live with them. ”

5- Schizophrenics are dangerous fools

” The mental illness is mentioned at each fact-divers. It is very unfair to have this label worn on patients. In fact, less than 5% of serious crimes are committed by schizophrenics. This is a very stigmatizing idea. Mental illness increases the risk of aggressive behaviour, but it is often linked to the use of drugs and alcohol, and often limited to the family context. ”

6- Schizophrenia is not healed

” It’s wrong. Theeffectiveness of antipsychotic treatments no longer to prove. They accelerate the recovery of patients. In a few weeks, we can calm delusions, hallucinations and anxieties that these symptoms generate. Hospitalization is not systematic. It all depends on the precocity of the intervention, the social fabric around the patient and the severity of the symptoms. ”

7- Under drugs, patients are knocked out

“In high doses, the drugs have a sedative effect. But, we do everything to adjust the dose to the minimum effective dosage, at the latest after the acute phase. ”

8- Psychotherapy is useless

“In schizophrenia, it is difficult to follow psychotherapy in the acute phase of the disease. But when the symptoms are controlled, the psychotherapies are very helpful to accompany patients and help them live with their illness. Some hallucinations or resistant deliriums are sometimes better treated with psychotherapy than with drugs. ”

9- They can neither study nor fit into professional life

“It’s still a misconception. It all depends on the moment, in the course of the person, where the illness is declared. If the first psychotic episodes occur while the person has already finished his studies, or is already in the job, one starts on a base of acquired. So the reintegration possibilities are more important. On the other hand, a disease that starts early has a heavier impact. After the healing of symptomsour job is to enable this reintegration. There is a whole range of support options for the job, for the patients who want it. In France, we still have some progress to make because the rate of access to employment is relatively low compared to neighboring countries. But several models are developing and can achieve good results, up to 60% of access to employment after specific training (against 10 to 20% currently). ”

10- The family is helpless

“It is certain that the family is under severe strain. It is an illness that parents will have to accompany in the long run. This is sometimes very complicated, especially when patients are unaware of their problems or refuse to take the medication. But there is a whole set of devices that are there to help parents. It goes from group of words, which allows you to share your experience, to trainings more directly addressed to parents to understand the disease and interact with the ill relative. The reference model is Profamille. This program significantly reduces caregiver stress. It allows them to learn techniques to communicate in a more peaceful way with the patient. Several pieces of evidence, and the families themselves, say that this program is very useful. ”