How To Spot Schizophrenia...

How To Spot Schizophrenia...

We have a vision of what schizophrenia looks like. Most of us get this vision from how Hollywood and the media have portrayed individuals with schizophrenia. But this isn’t Hollywood.

This is real life. In real life, people with schizophrenia are just people with a different experience.

Individuals with schizophrenia are usually under the care of a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist will prescribe medication for the individual and will also work with them to improve their personal situation between appointments. What sort of personal improvements? Typically, they will work to improve the physical and emotional well being of the individual. This often means working towards improving the individual’s personal hygiene, nutrition, and exercise regimen. In addition, they will work in helping the individual develop, improve, and maintain interpersonal relationships.

While Hollywood paints individuals with schizophrenia as the bad guy, they’re simply people trying to live in light of difficult situations. What sort of difficult situations might an individual with schizophrenia be working against?

In some cases, an individual who is working with their psychiatrist and taking their prescribed medication will seem normal, albeit often quiet or withdrawn. They may seem no different form any other individual. However, they’re often working against visual and auditory hallucinations or holding bizarre or erroneous beliefs (delusions). This can often make them seem odd to individuals who are not aware of their condition. They may talk to themselves or respond differently than we might expect.

None of this means that an individual with schizophrenia cannot be a contributing member of society but rather it means that there are supports and situations that will make their success easier. Individuals with schizophrenia can often flourish in work environments that are less crowded. Working with a small team can help, as can working a position that doesn’t necessarily involve a lot of “customer” interaction. While an individual with schizophrenia may not be well suited for a job in customer service, positions in maintenance, custodial services and landscaping may be very rewarding. The key to any of these situations is having employers and co-workers that understand the struggles of these individuals and can support them rather than being another obstacle to their success.

How can an employer or a co-worker help facilitate a healthy working environment for an individual with schizophrenia?

To start, it’s important for individuals to understand that these hallucinations and delusions are, to the individual, real. They cannot be ignored or explained away. You cannot prove a hallucination wrong. You cannot disprove a delusion. Instead, you can understand that these things can take a toll on an individual’s focus and attention and you can be gentle with allowing them to work through the process.

It is possible, if not probable, that you have encountered individuals with schizophrenia without ever having known. They may have been quiet. They may have reacted differently than you expected. They may have responded in, what to you, was a strange way. There is no one set of symptoms that an individual with schizophrenia will present. Every person is different. Just like you. Just like me.

They are friends. They are family. They are our community. How we interact with individuals that are not like us in every way speaks volumes about who we are as people. We strengthen our entire community when we support those who need that support.