Experts say "schizophrenia label" a harmful concept which should be dropped

British mental health experts say the term schizophrenia should abandoned as it has little scientific validity, and is imprecise and stigmatizing.

Professor Marius Romme, a visiting professor of social psychiatry at the University of Central England in Birmingham, says it is a harmful concept and many of the symptoms such as delusions, hearing voices and hallucinations are often reactions to traumatic and troubling events in life and not the result of the illness.

Other experts agree and say the concept of schizophrenia is a scientifically meaningless one which groups together a whole range of different problems under one label, under the assumption that people with all of these different problems have the same brain disease.

Schizophrenia affects about 1 percent of people in the United States and Britain and current treatments such as atypical antipsychotic drugs aim to eliminate the symptoms.

But the drugs commonly cause side effects such as weight gain, an increased risk of diabetes and sexual dysfunction.

A new initiative, the Campaign for the Abolition of the Schizophrenia Label (CASL), was recently launched, and says there is no agreement on the cause of the illness or its treatment and that the term schizophrenia is extremely damaging to those to whom it is applied.

Schizophrenia implies unpredictability, being dangerous, unable to cope and someone in need of life-long treatment, says Paul Hammersley, from the University of Manchester, who is involved with the Campaign, and he says it is like cancelling someone's life and the word must go.

While other psychiatrists agree that schizophrenia is an unsatisfactory term that conveys bizarreness, they are concerned that it should not be scrapped without finding another means of classifying patients with psychosis.

Robin Murray, a professor of psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, says if there is no 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 completely inappropriate for them.

Murray suggests replacing the term schizophrenia with the term dopamine dysregulation disorder, which he says more accurately reflects what is happening in the brain of someone who is psychotic.

It is estimated that one in 100 people will develop schizophrenia at some point in their lifetime.


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