Famous Schizophrenics

Although schizophrenia can be a career-debilitating condition, many have been able to succeed despite the disorder. Here are some notable personalities who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia:

  • John Forbes Nash: The Nobel prize-winning mathematician and economist suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. The award-winning film "A Beautiful Mind" was loosely based on his struggle with the disorder.
  • Syd Barrett: One of the founding members of Pink Floyd, Barrett was thought to have had schizophrenia. Some think that his symptoms were worsened by heavy drug use.
  • Lionel Aldridge: This football player helped bring the Green Bay Packers to victories in two Super Bowls. But he was homeless for a period after his diagnosis until he turned his life around and began travelling the U.S. to speak about mental illness [source: Psychology Today].
  • Jack Kerouac: The popular writer of the 1950s Beat Generation who wrote "On the Road" was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Living with Schizophrenia

After looking at the symptoms, it should come as no surprise that schizophrenics can lead difficult and socially isolated lives. Indeed, given that the disorder usually develops during a time in life when people typically learn essential occupational and self-sufficiency skills, it can be difficult for schizophrenics to reintegrate into society. Most don't get married, raise a family or have gainful employment [source: Javitt]. Sadly, as many as 5 percent of schizophrenics end up homeless [source: Javitt].

These factors may contribute to the tragically high percentage of schizophrenics who commit suicide (10 percent) [source: NIMH]. However, keep in mind that, as high a rate as that is, this statistic only measures those who succeed in suicide. The exact statistics for those schizophrenics who attempt suicide are not known but are thought to range between 18 percent and 55 percent [source: Gupta]. Experts disagree over whether schizophrenia makes someone violent. Statistics show that schizophrenia does not usually cause violent behavior, and the majority of those with schizophrenia are not violent. Indeed, schizophrenics are more likely to be victimized by violent crime than to commit it against others [source: Javitt]. In general, those with a history of violence before the onset of the condition may continue violent behavior, and those who had been nonviolent are unlikely to become violent. However, other studies do indicate that schizophrenics are more likely than the general population to be violent if they also abuse drugs and alcohol. When schizophrenic people do become violent toward others, it is usually against friends or family and in the home [source: NIMH]. Notably, the most likely victim of their violence, of course, is themselves, as shown by the high suicide rates. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) offers some advice for those who want to help people who have schizophrenia. You can work to generate a positive and supportive atmosphere to help schizophrenics make improvements and learn to function. Because people suffering from schizophrenia often struggle to set goals, others can help guide them through it. By setting small, attainable goals, you can help them slowly and steadily grow more independent. For friends and family of schizophrenics, responding to delusions and hallucinations can become difficult. For this situation, NIMH recommends neither trying to dispute nor play along with the schizophrenic's false notions. Instead, politely convey that people are entitled to their own opinions, but that you disagree.Schizophrenia often comes about so suddenly that it is difficult to grasp why it's happening. Despite the wealth of studies and research on the disorder, little is known about the cause. Next, we'll talk about some theories.