A Special Message for Families and Friends of
Someone Diagnosed as Having Schizophrenia
by Al Siebert, PhD
This website has no information on how to treat or cure anyone diagnosed as having so-called schizophrenia. It has no information about effective medications to take. It is not a referral service.
This website was created to provide helpful facts and information you probably haven't been told.
- After 100 years of research since so-called "schizophrenia" was first observed, the leading psychiatric researchers confess to each other that they still don't know what causes "schizophrenia", who will get it, how to cure it, or why some people recover from it.
- Most cases of so-called "schizophrenia" occur in physically healthy young adults (ages 16 to 25) who usually have a life history of being bright and capable. That is why it was originally called "dementia praecox -- the loss of mental capacities in youths." The older they are when first diagnosed, the better the chances of recovery because they have memories of how well life can be for them.
- Psychiatrists who say that so-called schizophrenia is a brain disease like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and multiple sclerosis, are distorting medical facts. They are making the so-called "schizophrenic" condition seem much worse than it is. What these psychiatrists do not tell the public is that while neurologists can determine with laboratory testing who has Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and multiple sclerosis, no neurologist can determine with laboratory tests who has schizophrenia and who does not . No one dies from schizophrenia, even when untreated, and people diagnosed with "schizophrenia" can recover on their own without treatment-something no person with Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, or multiple sclerosis has ever done.
- "Schizophrenia" is not a condition of slow, progressive deterioration. In general, the condition does not progress more after five years from its outbreak, but rather, improves. A small percentage of people fully recover and go on to become even better than before the episode. Many long-term research studies show that over one-third of the people who have an episode fully recover without medications (as did John Forbes Nash, Jr., subject of the motion picture and book, A Beautiful Mind) and another third achieve very good social recovery. Poor outcomes are usually attributed to the effects of hospitalization and medications.
- Some people are helped by medications. If medications are helping, then continue with what is working. Many people, however, experience the neuroleptic and psychotropic medications given to them as more harmful than helpful. They put on weight, become heavy smokers, feel lethargic, and have difficulty doing detailed work. Listen to them. Insist that psychiatrists provide you with written evidence that the medications being prescribed are safe and will be effective. Emphasize that you "want proof that the medications are safe, will be effective, and will not cause harm."
- Many psychiatrists try to frighten families into keeping the person on medications by saying 10% of people with schizophrenia commit suicide. If you are told that, ask to see evidence proving that the statistic is accurate. The truth is, national statistics on suicide disprove that statement. There is no documented evidence supporting the assertion that 10% of people with schizophrenia commit suicide. If that was true, there would be over 250,000 suicides recorded in the United States every year instead of the 32,000 reported for all causes (NIMH stats). If any mental health professional says that a person with schizophrenia is a suicide risk, ask to see published evidence that their statement is accurate.
- Many psychiatrists try to frighten families into keeping the person on medications by saying a person with schizophrenia might harm children or become violent. If you are told that, ask to see evidence proving the assertion is accurate. The truth is that people said to have schizophrenia are not more violent or physically harmful than is found in the general population. If any mental health professional says that a person with schizophrenia is likely to cause harm to others, ask to see published evidence that their statement is accurate.
Don't think of anyone as being "a schizophrenic."
Be cautious if any mental health professional says your loved one is "a schizophrenic," and do not allow yourself to use that phrase or even think it. It is a form of labeling that is demeaning, abusive, and stigmatizing to the person. A mental health professional who calls someone "a schizophrenic" is not professionally competent. Here's why...
- In 1980, the American Psychiatric Association officially declared in the preface to their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Edition III, that no one is to be called "a schizophrenic," that persons so diagnosed should be referred to as "a person with schizophrenia." Any mental health professional who talks about "schizophrenics" is badly out-of-date with current professional practices. Try to get away from them. Find someone else.
- Schizophrenia is not "a disease" (singular.) Starting with the original descriptions nearly 100 years ago, all professional references describe "the schizophrenias" (plural) as a group of conditions. A major problem in the study of schizophrenia is that the symptoms vary widely between people. Ten people diagnosed as having schizophrenia may all have different symptoms. There is no universal symptom found in all people diagnosed with schizophrenia. Any mental health professional who talks about "schizophrenia" as being a disease (singular) is badly out-of-date with current professional practices. Try to get away from them. Find someone else.
- Very few psychiatrists are able distinguish between someone having a mental breakdown and someone having a transformational, spiritual breakthrough. The perception of mental illness in someone is mostly a stress reaction in the mind of the beholder. In our society at this time in history the thoughts, feelings, and actions of some people may be declared "schizophrenic" by people who can't handle what they are being exposed to. This is why some people with so-called schizophrenia can completely recover with a therapist who relates to the person, not the "symptoms." The psychiatric profession has not listened well to successful therapists such as Carl Jung and Harry Stack Sullivan who said that their successes came from never seeing "schizophrenia" in anyone.
- Psychiatrist John Weir Perry achieved 85 percent recovery with persons declared to be extremely psychotic in his Diabases House program without any use of medications. Psychiatrist Loren Mosher achieved higher rates of recovery than traditional hospital programs using a supportive social environment instead of medications. Both of their programs had to shut down because of loss of funding, but new programs of a similar nature may exist in your area if you look.
There is Nothing to Cure
A useful perspective is to shift your thinking from believing the person "has a dreadful disease" to seeing that there is nothing in the person to be removed or cured. The reason why the person is said to have "a disease" is because at this time in history people who say and feel things that upset others are turned over to "doctors." Anyone seen by "a doctor" automatically becomes "a patient" with "a disease" or "illness." These medical definitions work for psychiatrists, but may be inappropriate for a person who just wants to figure out what is happening in his or her mind. It is counter-productive in many instances, to insist to the person that they must believe they are mentally ill. See the interview of a young woman said to be "a paranoid schizophrenic" by psychiatrists.
The person you care about is going through a period of inner turmoil made worse by the ways that others react. People said to have schizophrenia are usually ultra-sensitive to what others think and feel. It may be useful for them to think of them as going through a transforming heroic journey that they will be able to survive and that they can emerge from with more wisdom, strength, and ability. It's a difficult inner journey where they have to make sense of the confusing things said and done to them.
A wierd reality for many people said to be mentally ill is that they are declared crazy by people who cannot handle being confronted with inconsistencies between their actions and words.
The person you care about has to find ways to relate to other people. They need you to be a friend, not an enforcer of psychiatry's ineffective treatments. Keep in mind it is your journey also, so keep learning. The thought that someone is insane, crazy, or "sick" is your mind's way of handling your feelings of distress. Ask the person what they need. Express your feelings honestly. Ask what they want you and others to understand. Ask them for help. Continue learning together with the person said have a mysterious madness.
Trials of the Visionary Mind, by John Weir Perry. SUNY Press, 1998.
"Treating Madness Without Hospitals" by Loren Mosher, in The Handbook of Humanistic Psychology, edited by Kirk Schneider, et al., 2002
To become more fully informed about the negative effects of psychiatric medications, read:
- Your Drug May Be Your Problem: How and Why to Stop Taking Psychiatric Medications, by Peter Breggin, M.D. and David Cohen, Ph.D., and
- Mad in America, by Robert Whitaker.
These and many other useful books can be found at the on-line bookstore at http://www.successfulschizophrenia.org/resource.html
With best wishes,
Al Siebert, PhD
Disclaimer: Material found on the Successful Schizophrenia website is for your information only. We are not able dispense specific advice for your situation. If you are under a doctor's care, you should talk with him or her about your mental health goals and if they are not on the same page as you, ask for a referral to a doctor or counselor who is. It may mean interviewing several. If you are on your own, you may wish to contact your local county mental health department to ask for local resources. Our site exists to show people that there are all varieties of mental states and assessments of those states; that sometimes 'mental health' is in the eye of the beholder; and that the mental health profession needs to continue to open itself up to the new paradigm ... progress is being made!
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