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5 'Harmless' Comments That Actually Hurt People With Schizoaffective Disorder

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Schizoaffective disorder is a severe mental illness that deeply impacts an individual’s ability to function. Unfortunately, this illness is still very misunderstood. It is because of this that I have had things said to me that may have seemed helpful but were more than harmful. It is important to remember how much harm words can do, and to really try and ensure that what we say does not negatively impact those who may be struggling. The following are a few things that I have heard said to me, or others with the condition, that negatively impacted my or others’ wellbeing.

1. Have you tried praying to get rid of your illness?

This question is harmful on so many levels. Not only does it downplay how much someone may be struggling, but it implies that by not praying, one may be choosing to suffer — not to mention that many individuals are not religious and may have experienced religious trauma that severely impacted them and their condition. I know that many people are well-meaning when they make a statement similar to this, but we need to be more careful about how we raise religious questions without acknowledging an individual’s beliefs.

2. Are you sure you aren’t making your hallucinations up?

This question should not be appropriate from the get-go, but you would be so surprised how many people question psychosis, especially if you are more self-aware of your hallucinations. No, we are not making our hallucinations up. We would not choose to have this illness, and it is important for our care that we are taken seriously.

3. Why don’t you try and get a job?

So many of us with schizoaffective disorder are unable to work for a number of reasons, one being that it is incredibly difficult to anticipate how our disorder will affect us day-to-day and this can interfere with being able to adhere to a work schedule. Having structure is helpful, but with our episodes being so unpredictable, we often need the flexibility that a work schedule might not allow. But more than this, we shouldn’t have to explain why we are unable to work to anyone. This is a private matter.

4. You should try herbal supplements; they are so much better for you than medication.

Again, this interferes on a very personal matter — whether someone chooses to use medication or not. Many times, using medication is the only way for us to live a semi-regular life. Some people may be able to go for a more natural route, but this is not always the case. Being judged for being on a life-saving medication should not be appropriate.

5. I can’t believe you’ve chosen to have children; I wouldn’t want to pass on your illness to my kids, and I wouldn’t trust myself to be a good parent with your illness.

This statement is so harmful that I don’t even know where to begin with it. Once again, having kids is a very personal matter, and one should not be judged for having a child, nor should a parent’s ability to parent be questioned because of their mental illness. It shocks me how many times I have heard this harmful sentiment expressed in a variety of ways.

Overall, I would just like to say that having schizoaffective disorder and how we are able to function is a very personal matter. No one should think that they have the right to question us or make comments on our private lives. So many lives have been harmed by these statements and questions, but there are even more out there than I can include in this article. I hope that if you have schizoaffective disorder, you know that you don’t need to take to heart anything that anyone says to you or questions you about, and if you don’t have the illness, I hope that this article helps you to learn which topics to stay away from when questioning another about their life.

Getty Images photo via Cecilie_Arcurs

Originally published: May 2, 2022
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