Experts debate schizophrenia label

Scientists speaking on the eve of World Mental Health Day have called for the term schizophrenia to be scrapped.

Scientists from the University of Manchester claim that the category falsely groups a wide range of symptoms leading to an over-reliance on anti-psychotic drugs rather than psychological interventions and to patients being stigmatised.

Richard Bentall, Professor of Experimental Clinical Psychology at the University of Manchester said: “the concept of schizophrenia is scientifically meaningless. It groups together a whole range of different problems under one label – the assumption is that all of these people with all of these different problems have the same brain disease”

Mr Bentall felt that this false labelling had been “damaging to patients” encouraging widespread use of sometimes inappropriate biomedical interventions as opposed to psychological help.

Paul Hammersley, also of the University of Manchester, said of the term schizophrenia: “It is associated with violence, dangerousness, unpredictability, inability to recover, constant illness, constant need for medication and an inability to work. I cannot emphasise enough how stigmatising this label is.”

But most psychiatrists seem to accept the term schizophrenia as an imperfect but necessary method of classification for a very complex disorder. Many believe it should not be discarded until another, more suitable classification is devised.

Till 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.

“What all of us have to remember is that these are people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, not ‘the schizophrenic’.”