Is talking about being misdiagnosed with schizophrenia like trying to sew sequins on the Emperor’s new clothes?

As regular readers of my blog might know, in my teens I was diagnosed and treated for ‘chronic schizophrenia’ on the basis of so-called negative symptoms, such as social withdrawal, flattened emotions and lack of interest in things. The situational reasons for these were not taken into account during five years of treatment; neither life events nor the greatly worsening of these so-called ‘symptoms’ by medication. I’ve been fine since I managed to get myself off the neuroleptic drugs and out of the psychiatric system many years ago.

Nowadays people (including my publishers, psychiatrists and others who have read my memoir and those who know me) say that I was misdiagnosed with schizophrenia.  Although I sometimes say this, too, I’m becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the way it seems to imply that there is an illness called schizophrenia and that others suffer from it.  I do believe that I never did have ‘schizophrenia’ – but does anyone? Is there such a disease?

Saying I was misdiagnosed also enables psychiatrists to concede that there are incompetent practitioners while they point out that doesn’t mean there is something wrong with psychiatry as a whole or that what happened to me would still happen to someone today. For example, click here to see review of The Dark Threads by Dr Stephen Ginn. My view is that there was, and still is, something fundamentally wrong with psychiatry and its rigid adherence to the medical model with its heavy drugging, damaging treatment and the claims that the schizophrenia label has a scientific basis.

On the other hand, if I don’t say I was misdiagnosed, some people think I must then have recovered from schizophrenia (whereas what I needed to recover from was the treatment). I would love to offer hope to others, but I am anxious to avoid the false and dangerous implication that anyone diagnosed with schizophrenia should be able to come off their medication and build up a life for themselves, as I was able to do. Unfortunately some people can’t, though it doesn’t mean they are less ‘strong’ than me, or that they actually do have an illness called ‘schizophrenia’.

Maybe I’m wrong to say I was ‘misdiagnosed’. But can you see my dilemma? Perhaps every diagnosis of ‘schizophrenia’ is really a misdiagnosis. It certainly makes sense to me to agree with those who see good reasons for the schizophrenia label to be abolished, such as the Inquiry into the ‘Schizophrenia’ Label. Meanwhile, we ‘psychiatric system survivors’ have to struggle to express ourselves with inadequate terminology. This being so, I hope that people can understand what I mean.

Jean Davison
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