I am writing today in response to the commentary I received from my last post. This is for those of you that had questions in regards to my opinion; enjoy.
My gut says that “abolishing” a term simply because it has a negative stigma attached to it, is pretty senseless. How many illnesses, mental or otherwise, do you know of that provoke positive connotations? I think you would be hard pressed to find one (please let me know if you do). Any illness is going to have a negative stigma attached to it, which is why it’s an illness, because it has symptoms which have a negative impact on your life, and therefore may have a negative stigma attached to it by the rest of society. Is it better to be labeled “depressed”? What do people think of when they hear someone is depressed? If you asked people to give you a few sentences about depression, I would be willing to wager 9 out of 10 people would mention “suicide” as being related to depression. Would you say that’s a good stigma?
I think the majority of people in society know little in regards to matters of mental health. Typically, if you don’t work in the field, do not have close personal friends/relatives with a mental illness, or you yourself don’t have any major mental health problems, then the way you will hear about mental health issues is through the media, particularly movies and news reports, both of which usually only present extreme cases of said illness, in which persons have acted out of socially accepted norms and harmed another person, themselves or caused other reason for negative attention. This is the major reason why there is such a stigma attached to terms like “schizophrenia” or other mental disorders. The worst part about the media is that 3/4 of the time, and especially in movies the illness is not explained fully or the information about the illness is blatantly incorrect. Here is an interesting experiment if you ever have the time; run a survey inquiring how many people think the term “schizophrenia” means “multiple personality disorder”. I think you would have a fair number of people which would falsely say that schizophrenics have multiple personalities. I think this is a pretty good indicator that people are influenced by the bad information they receive through the media.
If we are going to get rid of terms like “schizophrenia”, we’ll have to get rid of all names of mental health illnesses. In fact, why diagnose people at all? The study of mental health was designed to diagnose people’s symptoms, or groups of symptoms, so that a course of treatment specific to a persons’ problem can be formulated and followed. If we start abolishing terminology based on the fact that illnesses have a “stigma” attached to them, people will not get adequate treatment and the whole field will start to unravel.
If you read the article which I cited in my last post, you know that Robin Murray, a professor of psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, advocated changing the term “schizophrenia” to dysregulation disorder, because he thought that it was more accurate in describing what really goes on in the minds of people who are “psychotic”. I have a serious problem with Murray’s solution. If people have developed certain attitudes about the term “schizophrenia” then it seems to me they will just transfer those negative attitudes onto the new term, be it dysregulation disorder, or whatever the powers that be come up with, so long as the negative symptoms associated with the disorder stay constant. As they say; a rose by any other name.
Finally, I got a response by one reader who wanted to know, “if the grounds for abolition of the term are such that some people exhibit symptoms consistent with the diagnosis as a result of some life stress (cf genetic reasons), then what do we do with those ‘bona fide’ patients? ” Reader, I believe you have been lead astray. As far as I know, a mental health diagnosis is the same regardless of how you developed symptoms. Please correct me if I am wrong. Thus if you have depression because of a chemical imbalance or because of traumatic life events, it is still referred to as depression. I think you may be able to find some rare cases where the development was critical in to the diagnosis, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, in which case the disorder is actually named because of the developing circumstances. With PTSD, a prerequesite of the disorder is experienceing trauma. In the case of Schizophrenia, I believe that regardless of how a person developed the illness, (which describes a group of symptoms), be it biological (genetic) or traumatic events, if the person suffers from the same group of symptoms in both cases, both diagnosis would always remain schizophrenia. I do not believe that the diagnosing criteria for an illness typically takes into consideration the developing circumstance, only the outcome or more specifically the symptoms. If I have an earache because someone hit me in the head or I have an earache because I’m genetically predisposed to earaches, it is still called an earache.
I did not find the article posted on CNN to be a convincing one and my follow-up research on the group The Campaign for the Abolition of the Schizophrenia Label, or CASL, yielded no additional information. I would be interested in knowing more of their argument, so if you happen to find a webpage for the group, please post it to the comments section, I think we’d all be interested in finding out a little more about this issue.
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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 12 Oct 2007
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.
Bechdel, J. (2006). Abolishing “Schizophrenia”: In My Opinion. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 29, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2006/10/12/abolishing-schizophrenia-in-my-opinion/