Sunday, February 07, 2016

Abandon the notion of mental illness as a distinct, genetic brain disease

Jim van Os makes a case for abandoning the term "schizophrenia" because of its association with suggestions that it is a distinct, genetic brain disease (see BMJ article). He suggests that no such language is associated with other categories of psychotic illness, but I'm not sure this is right, because bipolar disorder may be seen in this way. Van Os also points out that research publications on psychosis tend to concentrate on schizophrenia, although again, I think he probably underestimates the extent of the literature on bipolar disorder. He suggests removing the term "schizophrenia" from psychiatric classifications and recognising the existence of the broad and heterogeneous psychosis spectrum syndrome.

I've previously pointed out (see post) that psychosis has already tended to replace schizophrenia in everyday clinical practice. However, as I've also said, psychiatrists do tend to believe that psychosis is a brain disease (see previous post). I'm all for abandoning the notion of "schizophrenia" if it leads to mental illness not being seen as a brain disease. I agree that language does matter (see another previous post), but what's more important is to change conceptual understanding.

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