A Non-existent Disease
In his book Schizophrenia - The Sacred Symbol of Psychiatry, psychiatry professor Thomas S. Szasz, M.D., says "There is, in short, no such thing as schizophrenia" (Syracuse University Press, 1988, p. 191). In the Epilogue of their book Schizophrenia - Medical Diagnosis or Moral Verdict?, Theodore R. Sarbin, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz who spent three years working in mental hospitals, and James C. Mancuso, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the State University of New York at Albany, say: "We have come to the end of our journey. Among other things, we have tried to establish that the schizophrenia model of unwanted conduct lacks credibility. The analysis directs us ineluctably to the conclusion that schizophrenia is a myth" (Pergamon Press, 1980, p. 221).
In his book Against Therapy, published in 1988, Jeffrey Masson, Ph.D., a psychoanalyst, says "There is a heightened awareness of the dangers inherent in labeling somebody with a disease category like schizophrenia, and many people are beginning to realize that there is no such entity" (Atheneum, p. 2). Rather than being a bona-fide disease, so-called schizophrenia is a nonspecific category which includes almost everything a human being can do, think, or feel that is greatly disliked by other people or by the so-called schizophrenics themselves.
There are few so-called mental illnesses that have not at one time or another been called schizophrenia. Because schizophrenia is a term that covers just about everything a person can think or do which people greatly dislike, it is hard to define objectively. Typically, definitions of schizophrenia are vague or inconsistent with each other. For example, when I asked a physician who was the Assistant Superintendent of a state mental hospital to define the term schizophrenia for me, he with all seriousness replied "split personality - that's the most popular definition." In contrast, a pamphlet published by the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill titled "What Is Schizophrenia?" says "Schizophrenia is not a split personality". In her book Schiz-o-phre-nia: Straight Talk for Family and Friends, published in 1985, Maryellen Walsh says "Schizophrenia is one of the most misunderstood diseases on the planet. Most people think that it means having a split personality. Most people are wrong. Schizophrenia is not a splitting of the personality into multiple parts" (Warner Books, p. 41). The American Psychiatric Association's (APA's) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Second Edition), also known as DSM-II, published in 1968, defined schizophrenia as "characteristic disturbances of thinking, mood, or behavior" (p. 33). A difficulty with such a definition is it is so broad just about anything people dislike or consider abnormal, i.e., any so-called mental illness, can fit within it.
In the Foreword to DSM-II, Ernest M. Gruenberg, M.D., D.P.H., Chairman of the American Psychiatric Association's Committee on Nomenclature, said: "Consider, for example, the mental disorder labeled in the Manual as 'schizophrenia,' ... Even if it had tried, the Committee could not establish agreement about what this disorder is" (p. ix). The third edition of the APA's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published in 1980, commonly called DSM-III, was also quite candid about the vagueness of the term. It said: "The limits of the concept of Schizophrenia are unclear" (p. 181). The revision published in 1987, DSM-III-R, contains a similar statement: "It should be noted that no single feature is invariably present or seen only in Schizophrenia" (p. 188). DSM-III-R also says this about a related diagnosis, Schizoaffective Disorder: "The term Schizoaffective Disorder has been used in many different ways since it was first introduced as a subtype of Schizophrenia, and represents one of the most confusing and controversial concepts in psychiatric nosology" (p. 208).