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PLOS ONE  2013 

Changing the Name of Schizophrenia: Patient Perspectives and Implications for DSM-V

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0055998

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Introduction The diagnosis of schizophrenia is increasingly contested by researchers, clinicians, patients and family members. Preeminent researchers proposed its replacement with the salience syndrome concept, arguing for increased validity and less stigmatizing potential. This is the first study exploring the effects on stigma of this nosological proposal. Methods Two studies were conducted: one with 161 undergraduate students regarding their stigmatizing attitudes linked to the label of schizophrenia or salience syndrome, the other involved in-depth qualitative interviews with 19 participants treated in a first episode psychosis program. The interviews explored the subjective validity, acceptability and effects on stigma of a diagnosis of schizophrenia or salience syndrome. Results Overall, no significant differences were found between labels in study 1. For study 2, the majority of participants preferred a diagnosis of salience syndrome, considering it less stigmatizing mostly because of its novelty and the concealing potential of the new diagnostic entity, though many found it hard to relate to and somewhat difficult to understand. Discussion Our results suggest that the label change does not impact the stigmatizing potential for individuals who are not familiar with mental illness - they appear to base their attitudes on descriptions rather than the label alone. For those suffering from mental illness, a name change for schizophrenia to “salience syndrome” might offer only a temporary relief from stigma. Claims of de-stigmatizing effects should be grounded in sound scientific models of stigma and ideally in empirical data.


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