Concerns about ‘schizophrenia’ diagnosis

The use of ‘schizophrenia’ to describe problems of living is problematic for several reasons:

  1. ‘Schizophrenia’ does not seem to mean much (as an explanation for mental health problems) to many service users/survivors or their carers, relatives and friends.

  2. There are historical problems with the diagnosis, which originated 100 years ago at a time when psychiatry was dominated by racist thought, even more than it is today. It grew out of the 19th century idea of ‘degeneration’ which influenced eugenic theory and practice.

  3. The diagnosis of ‘schizophrenia’ has not proved useful as a basis for research into understanding mental health problems from a biological viewpoint. Its use in international study has confused rather than clarified issues around therapy for, and outcome of, mental health problems.

  4. In psychiatry, the use of powerful medication is not necessarily related to a diagnosis of ‘schizophrenia’. So the separation of the ‘schizophrenia’ diagnosis from drug treatment would make the use of medication more transparent, thus reducing its abuse.

  5. When looked at transculturally, ‘schizophrenia’ does not stand up as a useful way of identifying people with problems of living even when these are conceptualised as ‘mental’ ill health. For example, the experience of hearing voices is widely considered to be a symptom of ‘schizophrenia’, but many cultures see it differently, sometimes as a spiritual experience.

  6. When ‘schizophrenia’ as a diagnostic concept is used in a multi-ethnic setting, many problems emerge; in Britain it has become conflated with racist oppression, raising questions about the racist nature of the diagnosis itself along with psychiatric stigma.

Find out more

What IS this schizophrenia? Is it time to abandon it as a diagnosis? (Article by Suman Fernando)

The case against schizophrenia (Article by the Critical Psychiatry Network)

Is it time for ISPS to remove the term 'schizophrenia' from its name? (Paper by David Kennard (2009) in Psychosis: Psychological, Social and Integrative Approaches, 1:1, 95-97)

Position on psychiatric diagnosis by the East Midlands Psychosis and Complex Mental Health Special Interest Group