Monday, October 09, 2006

The unpleasant term

Thank you to John Robertson for pointing out this article to me, regarding the use of the term Schizophrenia. It appears that some people are finding this word offensive to their delicate little ears, and want the name of the illness changed.

I would understand it if they felt that the term was misleading, as its literal translation means “split mind” – as in split from reality, but of course some people wrongly think that people with Schizophrenia have a split personality.

However, their reason for wanting to change the name of the illness is that it “falsely groups a wide range of symptoms” and also they feel that “the label stigmatised people as being violent, dangerous and untreatable”.

Of course I’m not a professor, but I have a few comments that I would like to make about this myself:

  1. There is a specific criteria of symptoms for a diagnosis of Schizophrenia; the “label” is not handed out indiscriminately so I fail to see how it “falsely groups a wide range of symptoms”.
  2. The “label” in itself does not stigmatise people as being violent, dangerous, or untreatable, but the media do. It seems obvious to me that people need to be educated about mental illnesses, rather than remove terms from our vocabulary that scare people.
  3. It is a diagnosis, not a “label”.

Richard Bentall, who is a professor of experimental clinical psychology, has suggested that the label “has encouraged the widespread use of "drastic biomedical interventions" as the first-line of treatment, rather than psychological help” as if this was a bad thing. These “biomedical interventions” have been shown to work, and enable a great number of those “labelled” with Schizophrenia to live a normal life. I don’t think you will get many offers from people whose lives have changed drastically for the better through use of medication, for any of your experimental psychology. Psychological disorders which require therapy are hardly the same as psychiatric illnesses which need medication. Studies have shown that patients with Schizophrenia have chemical, and often physical, differences in the brain.

So, if the name is to change, what do we change it to? Some have suggested “integrated disorder” as used in Japan, although personally I feel that this "label" is very vague and will falsely group a wide range of symptoms together, which is the very thing these professors are trying to avoid.

I think this comment from Robin Murray, professor of psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry, London, just about sums up the real reason for this whole debate:

“My personal preference would be to replace the unpleasant term schizophrenia with dopamine dysregulation disorder”.

Italics my own.


Rhea said...

But it's only replacing one term with another. I agree, surely educating the public about mental illnesses in the same way that we are educated about physical illnesses, such as asthma, meningitis or food allergies, would be much better.

Mr Mans Wife said...

I know. It's amazing that what seems obvious to us "simple folk" doesn't even occur to these "great minds" at the top of their profession.

Anonymous said...

I have a partner who has been labled under the Schizophrenia umbrella and given drugs, unfortunattly nothing has worked for him, i agree that there needs to be some serious education about mental health and the Media has a lot to answer for. I also agree that once the diagnosis is given they automatically treat with drugs rather then looking at the cause which for my partner seems to be emotional Trauma, surley for him some sort of councelling would be of more benefit then drugs and for this reason i agree with the artical. My experiance so far is they would rather pump him full of drugs then try and deal with the cause and when none of the drugs have worked we hae been discarded and left to fend for ourselves.