New Article: 7 Myths About Schizophrenia

Courtenay M. Harding, Ph.D.

Actually, it’s not a new article,  but a classic one: “Empirical correction of seven myths about schizophrenia with implications for treatment”, by the legendary Courtenay M. Harding and her colleague, James H. Zahniser, from Acta Psychiatrica Scandanavica in 1994. PsychOdyssey came across this article again when reviewing its files. Harding and Zahniser present empirical evidence accumulated for two decades before the article’s publication to challenge seven long-held myths in psychiatry about schizophrenia. Sadly, even nearly 20 years later such myths still stubbornly persist. Families in the maelstrom must know the facts and even help the field of psychiatry overcomes its own prejudices in the quest to help their loves ones.

The seven myths are:

1. MYTH: “Once a schizophrenic, always a schizophrenic.” REALITY: There appears to be an ever widening heterogeneity of outcomes across time.

2. MYTH: “A schizophrenic is a schizophrenic is a schizophrenic.” REALITY: There is wide individual heterogeneity within the SZ diagnosis category.

3. MYTH: Rehabilitation can be provided only after stabilization. REALITY: Rehabilitation should begin on Day One.

4. MYTH: Why bother with psychotherapy for schizophrenia? REALITY: Supportive psychotherapy is crucial for integrating the experience and enhancing continued adult development.

5. MYTH: Those with SZ must be on medication all their lives. REALITY: It may be a small percentage who need medication indefinitely.

6. MYTH: People with SZ cannot do anything except low-level work. REALITY: People with SZ can and do perform at every level of work.

7. MYTH: Families are the etiological agents. REALITY: Families as collaborators can provide critical information and provide environments to lower a relative’s vulnerability to episodes.

Read Harding and Zahniser’s evidence against these myths here. Read all of PsychOdyssey’s recommended articles here.

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3 Responses to New Article: 7 Myths About Schizophrenia

  1. DJ Jaffe says:

    I read what she wrote about Myth 6, and it is very not convincing. While I wish it was a myth, I have not seen more than a handful of people with SZ working outside the mental health or arts field in competitive non-subsidized employment. Even the article in the NY Times this past Sunday was only successful in showing the exception to the rule, rather than the rule. Sorry. I know it’s not politically correct. Reality often isn’t. That’s why we need better treatments for people with severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia.

  2. Courtenay Harding says:

    I certaily understand Jaffe’s frustration! Systems of care put getting a person last on the list now instead of near the top. A job-person match can reduce symptoms, raise a sense of self, and increase self esteem, so it is really treatment after all! Clinicians tend to wrap people in cotton and forget that they could help people go back to school and get a job even with symptoms by using stress reduction and practice techniques. When I was on NPR’s Morning Edition recently, people called me from across the North American continent–doctors, nurses, college professor,s high school teachers, engineers, lawyers, psychologists. They said, “Thanks for telling our story. I once had schizophrenia, but I don’t tell anyone because of the stigma and discrimination.” Boston University conducted a survey of 500 managers and found, if I remember right, that a high percentage had been hospitalized over three times diagnosed with major mental illnesses, but they had eventually gotten off SSI/SSDI, and most earned over $50,000 a year and had been more responsibilities in the past couple of months. It really comes down to recapturing one’s old or new dream and going back to get the education to go after it.

  3. DJ Jaffe says:

    I just read the article Ms. Harding used in support of Myth 6. The research basically says less than 30% works, and then other research goes on to describe heterogeneity and factors and potential influences, etc. But I did not see any statistics showing anywhere approaching ‘normal’ rates of employment for people with schiz. Mental Illness Policy Org is dedicated to bringing science based solutions to people with serious mental illness. Many so-called solutions that may apply to people with mental ‘health’ issues do not carry forward to people with schiz.

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