There are several reasons and excuses for why Schizophrenia goes undiagnosed or mistreated.
Sometimes it is the result of denial by the person affected with the illness, or by the people around them. Other times it is the result of lack of education about the illness and an inability to understand what the symptoms are. It is also possible that a Learning disability can be the direct effect of a bigger underlying mental illness issue that a medical professional has over looked.
These are just some of the reasons why Schizophrenia can go undiagnosed for years until something that is hard to explain occurs, such as a pyschoatic episode.
In the early stages of the illness, it is easy to say there is nothing wrong and choose to ignore the signs of the illness. It is very unsettling at the thought of having Schizophrenia and being diagnosed or labeled with it.
But if left untreated or undiagnosed, Schizophrenia doesn’t get better and will intensify with age.
Fortunately, there have been medical advancements to help treat and manage Schizophrenia.
It is an illness that you can count on it getting worse and depending on the severity, death could be the end result. Living with Schizophrenia that is untreated is a terrible way to live your life!
Denial of the Illness & Why it is not Diagnosed.
I have a daughter that has Schizophrenia and in the early parts of her life, I knew as a mother that something was not right.
There were many signs and things I noticed that were different, I would question them in my mind, touch on them with our family doctor, and then dismiss them saying, With time she would out grow these things.
I would fight with my husband all the time about her and his response would always be that she was just trying to get attention.
When it did become evident that there was definitely something wrong, he still would not acknowledge that he had a daughter with any problems let alone an illness as debilitating as Schizophrenia.
Even now my ex-husband still denies the fact he has a daughter with mental illness.
Denial is the number one reason why Schizophrenia is not diagnosed and why people do not seek help. Either denial by the person suffering or by the family around the person suffering, who denies it and says there is nothing wrong.
We all look for other possible non-severe reasons for a behavior. We tell ourselves lies, we think that it is our fault that things are this way, but they will get better over time. We say that time heals all wounds, but in this case, it will only get worse if not treated.
The second reason it is not diagnosed, is for the lack of information that is available about mental illness. For several decades, mental illness was never mentioned.
For a long time it was not even taught in medical schools, let alone, mentioned in public information.
We all thought of Schizophrenia as something that a psychopath had, because we would only hear about it when it was connected to a violent crime.
In my mind, when I thought of mental illness, I thought of a person who was put away in an asylum and forgotten about, because you couldn’t deal with them.
The fact is, in severe cases of mental illness, the person suffering can gravitate to the darker side of the mind. But as time passes and if they are not diagnosed, it is possible for these dark thoughts to become a reality for them and they may do something violent.
But if the illness is diagnosed early enough, then it is possible to treat and manage.
The obvious and not so obvious symptoms of Schizophrenia
The symptoms of Schizophrenia may and can include:
Hallucinations (hearing voices, seeing people, seeing things that are not there)
People with Schizophrenia can have varying degrees of this illness. Sometimes they will hear just voices and never seen anyone attached to the voice. Other times it is more severe and they will actually see people, creatures and things that are not there in reality, but to them they are very real.
Doctors call these hallucinations, but to a person with Schizophrenia, the voices and people that they hear and see are as real to them as you and I.
People who are seeing or hearing these imaginary voices have a high tendency of talking out loud, becoming very vocal, and carrying on conversations with things that are not there.
They will even turn music on really loud in their room so no one can hear them talking to these imaginary forces. They will lock themselves into their own room, to have these conversations where no one can hear them, and they can be left alone.
When you hear the mentally ill talking to someone or something that is not there, you get the sense that the conversation is happening with a real person, but there is no one in the room with them.
Most of the time, if you ask them if they know the people they are talking to, they will typically say that they do not know they are.
But, depending on what is going in their life, they may start to believe that they are seeing people who have passed away, or an actor that they saw on TV in a movie. Sometimes the people they choose to talk to in their mind, are strangers on the street that they walked by days or weeks earlier.
The problem with these hallucinations is that these interactions will often turn to a Dark Theme. They will start to talk or think about death, loss, evil, anger and fear.
To some with Schizophrenia, the voices would verbally attack them about the person they are, and what they have done. They will say things like you are dumb, worthless, should never have been born and these dark comments and thoughts can continue to escalate to thoughts of harming themselves.
The voices typically never stop and they are very distracting, judgmental, critical, and over bearing.
Delusions (false beliefs)
It is very hard to say to someone with Schizophrenia that the voices and people they see are not real. They can draw pictures of what they are seeing and can give you an exact recount of what is being said to them. But the reality is all these things that are being told to them, they will start to believe as absolute truth.
One such example of this belief of the voices involves my daughter. The voices in her head told her that the food in front of her at meal times was poisonous and to eat it because they wanted her dead. If she did eat it, they would tell her that they are succeeding in killing her, and she would instantly throw it up.
As a result of this constant mental pestering, my daughter started to lose weight and became anorexic, and would not eat or keep food down. Because she believed what the voices told her about the food being poisonous, so she stopped eating.
When the mentally ill start to believe the voices and people they see and hear, that is when the person you know, no longer acts and thinks the same way as they once did.
Even if you tell them over and over again that these voices are not real, they will not believe you. In their mind it is a perpetual dream or nightmare that never ends. But when you confront them about these voices that they consider to be absolute reality, they will start to become more secretive and will withdraw into their own world. Thus, shutting you out of their life as much as they can and it is almost impossible to reach them at that point.
Lack of emotions or inappropriate display of emotions
As the illness progresses, people with Schizophrenia become more and more withdrawn into this world of imaginary visions.
They hear and talk freely with the voices and they stop relating to reality. This disconnection from reality can and will result in loss of emotions, and inability to interact in the world.
Once they have accepted this loss of reality, sometimes they start to believe that they have special powers that is given to them. Some of them believe they are receiving prophecies of what is to come, or they believe they are talking directly to god, angels, or the devil.
Sometimes they believe that they have an important mission to do and no one else understands, so they need to keep it a secret.
Because they feel no one understands them, the typical day to day interactions with normal people will result by acting out with anger and frustration.
As I explained earlier, the illness does not get better if left untreated or undiagnosed. It will not improve as time goes on and they slip into their own self-made imaginary world.
Lack of motivation
They lose the desire to go to school, work, take care of themselves or do anything in life. Interactions with people can feel strained and stressful for them and they will choose to avoid people all together.
They just want to be left alone to do what they feel they need to do. If they believe they have received a mission from the voices, then they just want to focus on that mission and forget about everything else.
Lack of motivation can be the direct result of a person with mental illness that is focusing entirely on the voices in their head. They will spend hours and days trying to decipher the supposed information they are being told.
In several cases, what they are being told makes absolutely no sense to them, but they feel they need to do something to make the voices go away.
Trouble functioning at school or in social situations
The constant nagging and pressure from these imaginary voices and people that pester the mentally ill is over whelming for them. As a result, they can become disorganized, easily distracted, an inability to focus or maintain consistent thinking.
They will act out inappropriately, say things in conversations that don’t make sense, and laugh at things that are not funny. A complete social awkwardness. This makes functioning in school or social situations almost impossible for them.
For young adults and children, this type of social awkwardness can result in teasing and tormenting from people around them, making the illness even worse.
When this happens, they only want to disconnect from the world even more which will make it harder for them to function or fit in at school, work, or in social interactions.
Self-inflicting pain with the intent of a distraction from the voices and people they see.
Sometimes the constant voices in their head can be so overwhelming, that they just want it to stop and go away. In an attempt to get rid of voices, they will purposely injure themselves or cut their body to inflict pain. They will focus on the pain to push away the voices that they hear or the thoughts they have no control over. They will take extremely hot showers and try to focus on the hot sensation to draw their mind away from the voices.
They will drink or do drugs in attempt to shut out the voices to have some peace in their life.
This is just a short list of the several ways a mentally ill person will deal with the imaginary world in their head.
If any of these symptoms sound familiar to you or someone you know. Please take the necessary steps to get help.
Talk to someone you think will listen. Maybe your parents, friends, family member, or a Doctor.
Explain to the best of your abilities what is happening to you and the specific things that are going on in your mind.
People with mental illness can act very secretively and will keep a lot of things to themselves. They are very good at saying just enough to get by and not draw any attention to themselves. But with no treatment, after awhile it will become very obvious that something is not right.
They are afraid of what people may think about them, even worse they think that no one will believe them. In many cases, the voices in their head tell them that something bad will happen if they say anything. So they live in fear and will be scared of the possible repercussions of saying something.
But the truth is, if the illness is not treated or diagnosed, the symptoms will only intensify. It will become harder and harder for the person suffering from the illness to function in the world. Eventually, the many secrets that they have been hiding from loved ones and friends will come out.
But depending on the amount of time that has passed with no treatment it can result in several personal losses. Such as friends, family, work, school, and other loved ones in their life who do not want to be around them.
For Schizophrenia, the earlier it is diagnosed in life, the better chance a person has of living a normal and happy life.
There is hope of living a normal life with Schizophrenia. But it is only possible through treatment and management of the symptoms with medicine and diagnosing it as early as possible. In my opinion, having a great caretaker is essential.