Coping with the Stigma of Schizophrenia

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If you or a loved one has schizophrenia, you’ve probably felt the shame or stigma of the illness. Maybe others avoid you or are even scared of you because of the disease. Or maybe it’s been difficult to find work or develop relationships. It can be difficult feeling different than others. But you can take some control of the situation by learning the best ways to cope.
Make sure you understand the facts about schizophrenia. Many people have misconceptions about the illness, which drives some of the stigma. For example, some people incorrectly think that most people with schizophrenia are violent or have a split personality. If you encounter someone who doesn’t understand the illness, gently share correct information with them.

Seek Treatment

It’s estimated that more than half of all people with mental illness in the U.S. don’t receive treatment. And of those who do seek help, up to two-thirds drop out prematurely. Experts believe that fear of stigma is one reason why they don’t get the help they need. Don’t let the stigma of schizophrenia keep you from getting diagnosed and treated. Treatment, which often includes a combination of medication and therapy, can help you feel better and reduce symptoms that interfere with your work and personal life.   

Change Your Perspective

Although the stigma of mental illness is very real, some feelings of stigma can be brought on ourselves. It’s easy to take on some of the negative feelings we gather from those around us. It can make us start to believe incorrect stereotypes or lower our self-esteem. Try not to internalize the stigma around you. Remember, you are not your illness.  

Connect for Support

Although you may feel different because of your illness, you are not alone. Millions of people in the U.S. are living with schizophrenia. Connecting with some of them can give you support and community. The National Alliance on Mental Illness provides a number of free educational and support groups.

Look to the Future

Researchers continue to learn more about schizophrenia. And they are improving therapies for the illness. There is hope for a brighter future. Continue your treatment plan and take steps to live the most productive life possible.  

Key Takeaways

  • Make sure you understand the facts about schizophrenia. If you encounter someone who doesn’t understand the illness, gently share correct information with them.

  • Don’t let the stigma of schizophrenia keep you from getting diagnosed and treated. Treatment can help you feel better and reduce symptoms.  

  • Try not to internalize the negativity you may experience from others. Remember, you are not your illness. 

  • Connecting with others who have schizophrenia can give you support. Try the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Jul 28

  1. Treatment, Services and Support, National Alliance on Mental Health, Accessed February 5, 2014.  http://nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=Schizophrenia9&Template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&C...

  2. Stigma: Building Awareness and Understanding About Mental Illness, Mental Health Awareness of Greater Dallas.  http://www.mhadallas.org/page/stigma.cfm

  3. Mental Illness: What You Need to Know, National Alliance on Mental Illness, Accessed Jan. 27, 2014.  http://www.nami.org/Content/NavigationMenu/Inform_Yourself/About_Mental_Illness/By_Illness/MentalIll...

  4. Schizophrenia, National Alliance on Mental Illness, Accessed Feb. 1, 2014.  http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=Schizophrenia9&Template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.c...

  5. Measuring the Impact of Programs that Challenge the Public Stigma of Mental Illness. P Corrigan and J. Shapiro. Clinical Psychology Review. December 2010, vol. 30, no. 8, pp. 907–922..  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2952670/

  6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3610943/pdf/nihms363969.pdf

  7. Frequently Asked Questions, Schizophrenia Society of Canada, Accessed February 5, 2014.  http://www.schizophrenia.ca/faq.php#10

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