October 09, 2006

"Schizophrenia" Term Should Be Abolished, Group Says

A group in England calling themselves the Campaign to Abolish the Schizophrenia Label (Castle) has stated that the term "schizophrenia" should be scrapped because they believe that the term falsly groups a broad range of symptoms and "encourages over-reliance on anti-psychotic drugs rather than psychological intervention".

Schizophrenia researchers that we've talked to have suggested to us that while the term "schizophrenia" probably actually encompasses a number of different disorders and is therefore somewhat inaccurate, there is little value in replacing the term until we can discretely and biologically measure and identify each discrete subgroup of the disorder.

Castle is led by Paul Hammersley, of the University of Manchester, one of a small group of psychologists that has indicated that they believe that child abuse is the primary cause of schizophrenia (a theory that is not supported by the mainstream psychology and psychiatry communities), though a stressful childhood does seem to be a factor.

Dr. Robin Murray, of the London Institute of Psychiatry, has stated that he believed the term "schizophrenia" was imperfect but warned that were it discarded another method of classification must be devised.

He said: "If we don't have some way of distinguishing between patients, then those with bipolar disorder or obsessional disorder would be mixed up with those currently diagnosed as having schizophrenia and might receive treatments wholly inappropriate for them.

"Most psychiatrists would still agree that the term schizophrenia is a useful, if provisional, concept. My personal preference would be to replace the unpleasant term schizophrenia with dopamine dysregulation disorder which more accurately reflects what is happening in the brain when someone is psychotic. "

Til Wykes, professor of clinical psychology and rehabilitation at the Institute Of Psychiatry, said: "We should be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water, as despite its limitations, a diagnosis can help people access much needed services."

The Schizophrenia Society of Canada has discussed changing its name but remains proud of the title, said the group's CEO, Mary Jardine.

"Everyone is aware that there may be negative connotations...[associated with] using the term," Jardine said Tuesday. "I think the value in the name, in the terminology, is that it expresses the reality of the illness."

"To think that the stigma will go away because we change the name is probably a little bit unrealistic," Zipursky agreed, adding a better approach is to fight the stigma of schizophrenia itself, as advocates for cancer and HIV/AIDS are doing.

Read the full story:

Schizophrenia term use 'invalid' (BBC)


The misuse of this term in the media is in itself enough to point to the need for a better, more accurate term. I know of several people with the disorder and none display the symptoms commonly implied by references in dramas, films and press articles. A well advertised move to a different term would do a lot to highlight recent understanding and combat the stigma which does as much harm as the illness itself.

Posted by: John Sutton at October 9, 2006 12:03 PM

It would be good to find another term for the disorder, as the connotation seems to have been completely inflated with the media. While movies may be honest in portraying some of the darkest side of the illness, it's taken by the general public that anyone who is ill with schizophrenia are a veritable timebomb of mass serial killings.
That isn't true. On my worst day for instance, I may get paranoid and suffer some, but I've never wanted to hurt anyone.
Unfortunately what is there to replace it with? If we replaced it with another umbrella term, the media would simply jump on that. Otherwise, it seems the world of psych doesn't have a better term for the type of illness.
What would best serve under the circumstances would be more movies like "A Beautiful Mind", where the person who has the problem doesn't run around with an axe.

Posted by: Ernest at October 9, 2006 02:28 PM

I think it is one thing to engage in a semantical debate as to alternative names for schizophrenia and an intellectual debate as to how best to categorise and treat
those falling under the rubric of 'schizophrenia but my own fear is that it would be potentially all too short a step from this to be camping out in the lands of
'anti psychiatry and scientology ' and playing down with potentially diastrous consequences the effect on the invididual sufferer.

I personally believe that time would be better spent working towards a more dimensional approach that takes into account links between
sz-bipolar sz-OCD sz-psychotic depression etc and reflects that the presentation of symptoms are not as 'cut and dried' in real life cases of mental illness than that depicted by the DSM.

Posted by: Tim^ at October 9, 2006 04:25 PM

I would be concerned only in that the scientific community has come to embrace the term Schizophrenia for psychological diseases featuring psychosis. I believe that a more specific classification for a type of schizophrenia is perhaps in order, however, it would be unwise to change the name of a disease that the mainstream world is just beginning to accept. I believe that this would only create stigma and more difficulty for the severely inflicted to be understood and helped.

Posted by: bish at October 9, 2006 10:26 PM

I really believe that the article is right when it states that changing the name will NOT erase the stigma. I think this is the real issue here. I find it very difficult to believe that an illness caused by a brain malfunction can be treated with pschotherapy. This only works with a well brain not a damaged one.

Posted by: Paula at October 18, 2006 04:53 AM

In his time Shakespeare would have summed it up much more aptly than anybody else today:
"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
by any other name would smell as sweet
". (Romeo and Juliet, II,ii, 1-2)
You just have to replace the rose with "schizophrenia" and to substitute foul for sweet in order to adapt the two nice and famous verses to the present subject.
I totally agree with Paula's post (October 18, 2006) and her no-nonsense skepticism about the use of psychotherapy was already strongly expressed by Nobel prize holder Peter Medawar in his book "Pluto's Republic".
A more detailed reaction to the BBC report on "CASTLE" can be found at:
Jean Desclin, M.D., Ph.D. (Brussels)

Posted by: Jean Desclin at October 27, 2006 02:19 AM

I am a proponent for the elimination of this term. I do not get worked up and emotional about "stigma", instead, I am concerned that the term has for so long been misconceived as "split personality" that it is nearly impossible to properly educate the public about the nature of the disorders generically known as sz. If there is greater understanding of the disorders in the general publice there will be more attention paid to funding of research and support for desperately needed supportive housing. I definitely do not want to see funding going to researchers who lack the cognitive capacity to accept the biological nature of the disease - there are too many people who are thinking with their emotions - who are oriented toward believing in "external/environmental (e.g. abuse) causes who are having too much influence in research. They are holding back progress in research. I want to see big money from influential people going into research.

Posted by: Jennifer at February 21, 2007 07:39 AM

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