For those of us with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, to be told that such a disease doesn’t exist can be challenging to say the least. It’s obvious that people suffer from distress, voices, unusual beliefs and a plethora of other issues. But does this mean that we suffer from a disease? Could there be another explanation?
According to Susan Lien Whigham, author of a website called ‘The Schizophrenia Myth’, schizophrenia is a ‘state of mind’. She notes that there are many people who have a diagnosis of schizophrenia but who feel that their condition is beneficial or benign. People like this, whilst having undoubtedly received their diagnosis from a psychiatrist, are probably less likely to find themselves hospitalised very often and are therefore underepresented in psychiatric hospitals. If a person finds their voices or unusual beliefs can be coped with, even valued, then they might feel it unecessary to go into hospital. Psychiatrists often find themselves talking to the most badly affected people at their most distressed and therefore seem to draw the conclusion that schizophrenia is always a crippling, wholly negative condition. This phenomenon of seeing service uers at their worst and drawing the conclusion that service users are ‘always ill’ has sometimes been reffered to as ‘the clinicians illusion’.
On her website, Susan Lien Whigham says that she recognises at least two basic types of schizophrenia, which she calls ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ schizophrenia. Of primary schizophrenia, she says :
‘Primary schizophrenia may be considered a basic personality type, characterized by predominantly nonlinear thought and behavior patterns which are evident from childhood onward. Primary schizophrenics are extremely intuitive with acute, but shifting, emotional and perceptual sensitivities…’
Secondary schizophrenia is descfibed as well:
‘Secondary schizophrenia is what happens when schizophrenia occurs in response to specific, external triggers. These triggers may be in the form of physical or emotional injury. They may correspond with specific brain abnormalities, or with a history of abuse, or with a specific traumatic incident, such as sexual assault. Secondary schizophrenia which occurs in response to emotional trauma belongs to a very specific process of healing and self-empowerment, which cannot be fulfilled if interfered with by those who wish to blindly force conformity on the individual undergoing the process.‘
Like a growing number of commentators, Susan obviously feels that the phenomena known as schizophrenia is misunderstood and could be treated in a more progressive, humane and respectful way. To conclude that because a person hears voices or has unusual beliefs they are unable to come to desicions about the best way to deal with the experience is common amongst mental health professionals.
Things seem to be improving within the psychiatric system at the moment – I can think of a few individuals who have been allowed to come off their medication and who are heading away from psychiatry. Early intervention teams are making good progress in showing people who experience psychosis that life goes on despite their voices or unusual beliefs. We can only hope that the intimidating social stigma that accompanies psychosis and involvement with a professional due to it will also eventually be lessened.
Susan Lien Whighams websiste can be found by clicking on this link -