The reality of schizophrenia in college

By: Samuel Smith, Columnist 

Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.

There are a lot of stereotypes revolving around schizophrenia. Some people may imagine it based on the portrayal of schizophrenia in today’s media, as someone who hallucinates who is dangerously violent, surrounded by padded walls or wearing a straitjacket. What a lot of people don’t realize is that many of those living with schizophrenia live normal lives. I’m schizoaffective. I’m also a student, a knitter, a runner, an avid coffee drinker, a brother, and a son. 

The stigma around schizophrenia keeps so many people from getting diagnosed. Approximately 2.6 million U.S. adults are schizophrenic. One in every 200 people has schizoaffective disorder – a similar disorder which is a combination of schizophrenia and a mood disorder (either bipolar or depression). Schizophrenia is characterized by symptoms such as hallucinations, emotional changes, changes in sense of self, trouble focusing, and delusions. It is mainly known for the characteristic hallucinations, but not everyone with schizophrenia hallucinates.

Knowing those numbers, you may know somebody who’s schizophrenic. At a school as big as Towson University, there are likely many people with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. While schizophrenia can feel scary to those who have it and those who witness episodes, most schizophrenic people aren’t dangerous. 

Schizophrenia also is usually diagnosed between a person’s late teens to early 30s, depending on gender. That’s college-age. It’s very likely you’ll know more people with schizophrenia as you move through college. It’s also important during this time that you support and uplift your friends. The onset of schizophrenia can feel scary and confusing. If a friend is dealing with the symptoms, encourage them to seek help. If you notice the symptoms in yourself, it’s okay to get help as well. Catching schizophrenia early is good, it means you can treat it earlier before it becomes unmanageable. 

The stigma around schizophrenia and psychotic disorders kept me from speaking up or seeking a diagnosis. Schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder are often mistreated. It’s estimated that 40% of the people who are schizophrenic aren’t being treated for it. What’s worse is schizophrenia treatment can be expensive. Treatment is usually a combination of medications and therapy, both of which have high price tags. This means people with schizophrenia often can’t even afford the treatments they need.

My schizoaffective disorder is one small part of me. I’m not scary (I can barely kill a bug), I can live pretty independently, and I am a successful student. Try to think beyond the stereotypes of schizophrenia before you judge somebody with it.

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