When it comes to schizophrenia, many people are more familiar with the stereotypes and stigma than the truth. They’ve likely seen the sensationalized version of schizophrenia that’s portrayed in movies, without realizing how dramatically that often differs from a real person’s experience living with schizophrenia.
Unfortunately, this uneducated perspective sometimes comes out in offhand comments and flippant questions that may seem innocent enough — but are actually quite hurtful for someone with schizophrenia to hear. If you have schizophrenia, you know how crushing it is when someone makes a comment that (knowingly or unknowingly) implies that you’re dangerous or untrustworthy.
The only way people can learn what comments to avoid when they’re speaking about schizophrenia is if those of us who know better, who know how painful and inaccurate those stereotypes and assumptions can be, call them out.
That’s why we asked our Mighty community living with schizophrenia to share things people say that may seem “harmless,” but are still hurtful for them to hear. While people may not intend to be hurtful when they say these comments, they perpetuate stigmas about schizophrenia that make it harder for people living with the condition to find acceptance and compassion.
Here’s what our Mighty community told us:
- “My psychologist at the time told me I didn’t look like I had schizophrenia therefore I couldn’t possibly have it.” — Mary T.
- “Must be nice to always have someone to talk to.” — Tricia F.
- “When I told a friend this week that I was having a really rough time because I was having really strong hallucinations, they responded with the oddest comment I’ve ever gotten. They said they were jealous of my brain for ‘making things up.'” — Michelle B.
- “What kind of drugs do you take?” — Melissa A.
- “When I moved in with my boyfriend and some roommates, one of our roommates asked me if I’ll ever try to hurt or kill someone or them if I ever get angry or anything like that, all because I have schizoaffective disorder. Hurt my feelings a lot.” — Daniela L.
- “Stop pretending or trying to manipulate others.” — Niza S.
- “‘I’m glad I just have depression and not schizophrenia.’ This is just hurtful because it’s a put-down. It’s a mean insult and only sees schizophrenia as a horrible debilitating disease that can never recover or live a normal life. And who says I’m not more stable than you?” — Michelle H.
- “Are you going to go crazy and hurt somebody?” — Asa Y.
- “[My pastor said] her schizophrenic niece got worse with medication because she ‘has a demon.’ She went on to explain that it’s either demonic possession or oppression. I explained to her that people have tried to perform exorcisms on me before, but they didn’t work simply because I’m not possessed. Her response was, ‘well if you get someone to do it who knows what they are doing, it will work.'” — Candace L.
- “A sarcastic comment — ‘Did you miss your medication?'” — Bethany Y.
- “Saying people with schizophrenia have multiple personalities (which isn’t even a diagnosis anymore and even if it was it has nothing to do with the symptoms of schizophrenia).” — Rebecca C.
- “Calling voice-hearing ‘imaginary friends.'” — Rebecca C.
- “I often hear the word ‘psychotic’ being used incorrectly. Experiencing hallucinations, delusions or disorganized thinking is psychotic — psychosis is a serious symptom, not an insult.” — Nicola H.
- “Joking about wearing tinfoil hats [and] straitjackets.” — Rebecca C.
- “When I hear someone describe someone with schizophrenia as a ‘schizo’ in a demeaning tone, it takes away a little bit of the resilience and self-acceptance I have worked so hard to build up.” — Nicola H.
Related: How I Manage Disturbing Thoughts
For more insight on life with schizophrenia, check out these stories by our Mighty community:
- 5 Things to Say to a Friend Who Opens Up About Experiencing Hallucinations
- 6 Things I Wish People Knew About Having Schizophrenia
- What I Need From a Loved One During a Psychotic Episode