10 Facts You Should Know About Schizophrenia

Tero Vesalainen/iStock via Getty Images
Tero Vesalainen/iStock via Getty Images

Of all the misunderstood mental illnesses, schizophrenia gets an especially bad rap. The condition is characterized by disordered thoughts, unusual speech and behavior, and an inaccurate view of reality. It's often used as the go-to disorder for violent criminals in movies and television shows, but in reality, schizophrenia affects a diverse range of people, many of whom are able to lead normal, satisfying lives with the help of treatments like therapy and medication. From symptoms to possible causes, here are some facts you should know about schizophrenia.

1. Schizophrenia literally means “split mind” ...

The name schizophrenia comes from the Greek words skhizein ("to split") and phren ("mind"). Swiss psychiatrist Paul Eugen Bleuler came up with the word in 1910 for the dissociation of various mental functions he saw in his patients. Before the term schizophrenia was coined, patients who exhibited symptoms of the condition were thought to have something called dementia praecox or “dementia of early life.” When Bleuler observed that the disease didn’t necessarily lead to mental deterioration—and patients were even capable of improving—he realized dementia wasn’t the problem.

2. ... but schizophrenia has nothing to do with split personalities.

Schizophrenia is not the same thing as dissociative identity disorder, which was previously known as multiple personality disorder. Someone can be diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder if they alternate between two or more identities, each with their own distinct traits. Schizophrenia, on the other hand, is characterized by auditory and visual hallucinations, amnesia, and general misperceptions of reality—none of which have anything to do with changing personalities. The association with split personalities is one of the biggest misconceptions attached to schizophrenia.

3. There are “positive” and “negative” symptoms of schizophrenia.

When Paul Eugen Bleuler coined the term, he also came up with a list of positive, negative, and cognitive symptoms of the disorder. Positive and negative in this case don’t mean good and bad. Positive is used to describe the characteristics of schizophrenia that shouldn’t occur in a healthy person, like paranoid thoughts and hallucinations. Symptoms that fall under the negative label include healthy traits that are missing from patients, like motivation, interest in life, and coherent speech. The last category, cognitive symptoms, covers disorganized thinking, gaps in memory, and other signs of mental dysfunction. Doctors still use the system devised by Bleuler to treat patients today.

4. Schizophrenia has genetic and environmental causes.

No one cause has been linked to schizophrenia. Doctors suspect that genetics may play a role in some cases: A chemical imbalance related to the neurotransmitter dopamine may increase someone’s chances of developing schizophrenia, as can complications during their birth. People with a parent with schizophrenia are more likely to have it themselves, but this is thought to be the result of a cocktail of genetic factors and not one specific gene mutation. There’s also a clear line between schizophrenia and environmental pressures. Stressful situations can trigger schizophrenia in people who are already predisposed to it. People with schizophrenia are also more likely to abuse substances (up to 50 percent are addicted to drugs or alcohol) but it’s not always clear when the behavior exacerbates the disorder or vice versa.

5. The first signs of schizophrenia usually appear in adolescence.

Most people with schizophrenia develop it fairly early in life. The most common time for symptoms to appear is in late adolescence and early adulthood. While male patients typically start dealing with schizophrenia in their late teens or early 20s, women tend to develop it a bit later in their late 20s and early 30s.The brain goes through crucial changes in late adolescence, which could make it especially vulnerable to psychotic disorders like schizophrenia.

6. Hollywood fuels misconceptions about schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia is one of the most stigmatized mental illnesses, and that’s largely due to its portrayal in entertainment. When researchers looked at 41 movies featuring schizophrenic characters for a study published in 2012 [PDF], they found that 83 percent of them were depicted as dangerous to themselves or others. A third engaged in homicidal acts. In reality, violence is uncommon among people with schizophrenia and someone with the disorder is by no means destined to be a criminal. Struggles that are much more common for schizophrenic people—such as negative symptoms like depressed feelings and unexpressive speech—are rarely seen on screen.

7. Schizophrenia is rare.

Though many people have heard of the condition, schizophrenia isn’t very widespread. According to the World Health Organization, it affects 21 million people worldwide, or less than 1 percent of the global population.

8. Schizophrenia patients have a greater risk of earlier death.

The disease itself may not be deadly, but schizophrenia can have life-threatening consequences. Patients with schizophrenia are two to three times more likely to die early than people without it, and they generally live 20 years less. The causes of death that contribute to this high mortality rate are suicide, cancer, and heart disease. Drug and alcohol abuse and cigarette smoking is more common among people with schizophrenia, all of which can lead to a decline in health. The antipsychotic drugs many people with schizophrenia take for most of their lives can also cause adverse side effects like metabolic issues.

9. Other mental illnesses are related to schizophrenia.

Schizophrenic patients are at a greater risk for a slew of different mental illnesses. Rates of depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder are all higher among people with schizophrenia. Symptoms of schizophrenia can overlap with these disorders: Suicidal thoughts and a lack of motivation and interest in life are schizophrenic symptoms that are also hallmarks of depression.

10. There are many ways to treat schizophrenia.

While there’s no cure for schizophrenia, the illness is highly treatable. Antipsychotic medications that target the neurotransmitter dopamine are commonly prescribed to patients. Some examples of these drugs include aripiprazole (Abilify), brexpiprazole (Rexulti), and lurasidone (Latuda). Drugs can make life manageable for schizophrenic patients, but they can also come with side effects such as weight gain, constipation, low blood pressure, and even seizures. Psychosocial therapy is another common treatment for people with schizophrenia.

12 Creative Ways to Spend Your FSA Money Before the Deadline

stockfour/iStock via Getty Images
stockfour/iStock via Getty Images

If you have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), chances are, time is running out for you to use that cash. Depending on your employer’s rules, if you don’t spend your FSA money by the end of the grace period, you potentially lose some of it. Lost cash is never a good thing.

For those unfamiliar, an FSA is an employer-sponsored spending account. You deposit pre-tax dollars into the account, and you can spend that money on a number of health care expenses. It’s kind of like a Health Savings Account (HSA), but with a few big differences—namely, your HSA funds roll over from year to year, so there’s no deadline to spend it all. With an FSA, though, most of your funds expire at the end of the year. Bummer.

The good news is: The law allows employers to roll $500 over into the new year and also offer a grace period of up to two and a half months to use that cash (March 15). Depending on your employer, you might not even have that long, though. The deadline is fast approaching for many account holders, so if you have to use your FSA money soon, here are a handful of creative ways to spend it.

1. Buy some new shades.

Head to the optometrist, get an eye prescription, then use your FSA funds to buy some new specs or shades. Contact lenses and solution are also covered.

You can also buy reading glasses with your FSA money, and you don’t even need a prescription.

2. Try acupuncture.

Scientists are divided on the efficacy of acupuncture, but some studies show it’s useful for treating chronic pain, arthritis, and even depression. If you’ve been curious about the treatment, now's a good time to try it: Your FSA money will cover acupuncture sessions in some cases. You can even buy an acupressure mat without a prescription.

If you’d rather go to a chiropractor, your FSA funds cover those visits, too.

3. Stock up on staples.

If you’re running low on standard over-the-counter meds, good news: Most of them are FSA-eligible. This includes headache medicine, pain relievers, antacids, heartburn meds, and anything else your heart (or other parts of your body) desires.

There’s one big caveat, though: Most of these require a prescription in order to be eligible, so you may have to make an appointment with your doctor first. The FSA store tells you which over-the-counter items require a prescription.

4. Treat your feet.

Give your feet a break with a pair of massaging gel shoe inserts. They’re FSA-eligible, along with a few other foot care products, including arch braces, toe cushions, and callus trimmers.

In some cases, foot massagers or circulators may be covered, too. For example, here’s one that’s available via the FSA store, no prescription necessary.

5. Get clear skin.

Yep—acne treatments, toner, and other skin care products are all eligible for FSA spending. Again, most of these require a prescription for reimbursement, but don’t let that deter you. Your doctor is familiar with the rules and you shouldn’t have trouble getting a prescription. And, as WageWorks points out, your prescription also lasts for a year. Check the rules of your FSA plan to see if you need a separate prescription for each item, or if you can include multiple products or drug categories on a single prescription.

While we’re on the topic of faces, lip balm is another great way to spend your FSA funds—and you don’t need a prescription for that. There’s also no prescription necessary for this vibrating face massager.

6. Fill your medicine cabinet.

If your medicine cabinet is getting bare, or you don’t have one to begin with, stock it with a handful of FSA-eligible items. Here are some items that don’t require a prescription:

You can also stock up on first aid kits. You don’t need a prescription to buy those, and many of them come with pain relievers and other medicine.

7. Make sure you’re covered in the bedroom.

Condoms are FSA-eligible, and so are pregnancy tests, monitors, and fertility kits. Female contraceptives are also covered when you have a prescription.

8. Prepare for your upcoming vacation.

If you have a vacation planned this year, use your FSA money to stock up on trip essentials. For example:

9. Get a better night’s sleep.

If you have trouble sleeping, sleep aids are eligible, though you’ll need a prescription. If you want to try a sleep mask, many of them are eligible without a prescription. For example, there’s this relaxing sleep mask and this thermal eye mask.

For those nights you’re sleeping off a cold or flu, a vaporizer can make a big difference, and those are eligible, too (no prescription required). Bed warmers like this one are often covered, too.

Your FSA funds likely cover more than you realize, so if you have to use them up by the deadline, get creative. This list should help you get started, and many drugstores will tell you which items are FSA-eligible when you shop online.

10. Go to the dentist.

While basics like toothpaste and cosmetic procedures like whitening treatments aren’t FSA eligible, most of the expenses you incur at your dentist’s office are. That includes co-pays and deductibles as well as fees for cleanings, x-rays, fillings, and even the cost of braces. There are also some products you can buy over-the-counter without ever visiting the dentist. Some mouthguards that prevent you from grinding your teeth at night are eligible, as are cleaning solutions for retainers and dentures.

11. Try some new gadgets.

If you still have some extra cash to burn, it’s a great time to try some expensive high-tech devices that you’ve been curious about but might not otherwise want to splurge on. The list includes light therapy treatments for acne, vibrating nausea relief bands, electrical stimulation devices for chronic pain, cloud-connected stethoscopes, and smart thermometers.

12. Head to Amazon.

There are plenty of FSA-eligible items available on Amazon, including items for foot health, cold and allergy medication, eye care, and first-aid kits. Find out more details on how to spend your FSA money on Amazon here.

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The 20 Most Valuable Companies in the World

The Apple store on Fifth Avenue in New York City.
The Apple store on Fifth Avenue in New York City.
Laurenz Heymann, Unsplash

It seems like the most valuable companies should be those whose products and services we use on a near-daily basis. And according to Forbes’s most recent list, they are: The top five highest-valued brands in the world are Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook.

The annual study is based on a complex mixture of metrics that cover revenue and earnings, tax rates, price-to-earnings ratios, and capital employed. Since the data is from 2017 to 2019, the list doesn’t reflect how the coronavirus pandemic has affected the companies in question. That said, it does reflect what many have long assumed: that Big Tech is running laps around all the other industries. The top five are all considered technology companies, as are four others in the top 20 (Samsung, Intel, Cisco, and Oracle). Other companies aren’t in the technology category, but they own lucrative offshoots that are. Disney, in seventh place with an estimated value of $61.3 billion, falls under the “leisure” umbrella—but Disney+ itself would likely be marked “technology.” (Netflix is.)

The list isn’t completely devoid of time-tested classics that don’t involve software or hardware. Coca-Cola edged out Disney by about $3 billion to take sixth place; Toyota placed 11th with a brand value of $41.5 billion; and McDonald’s just cracked the top 10 with $46.1 billion. Louis Vuitton, Nike, and Walmart all also made the top 20.

Just because a brand ranked high on this year’s list doesn’t necessarily mean it’s doing well (and vice versa). Facebook, for example, suffered a 21-percent decrease in brand value compared to Forbes’ 2019 list—the largest loss of all 200 companies included in the study. Netflix’s brand value, on the other hand, jumped a staggering 72 percent from 2019 to 2020. With an estimated $26.7 billion value, it still missed the top 20 by six spots.

See Forbes’s top 20 below, and check out the full list here.

  1. Apple // $241.2 billion
  1. Google // $207.5 billion
  1. Microsoft // $162.9 billion
  1. Amazon // $135.4 billion
  1. Facebook // $70.3 billion
  1. Coca-Cola // $64.4 billion
  1. Disney // $61.3 billion
  1. Samsung // $50.4 billion
  1. Louis Vuitton // $47.2 billion
  1. McDonald’s // $46.1 billion
  1. Toyota // $41.5 billion
  1. Intel // $39.5 billion
  1. Nike // $39.1 billion
  1. AT&T // $37.3 billion
  1. Cisco // $36 billion
  1. Oracle // $35.7 billion
  1. Verizon // $32.3 billion
  1. Visa // $31.8 billion
  1. Walmart // $29.5 billion
  1. GE // $29.5 billion

[h/t Forbes]