Schizophrenia: An Unfinished History
Throughout the world, schizophrenia is a diagnosis now in decline, representing a radical shift in our historical and medical understanding of madness and mental distress. But what does this medical term, first coined by a Swiss psychiatrist in 1908, mean? And why is it increasingly unpopular among patients and the medical establishment?
Historian and clinician Orna Ophir unearths the stories of patients and doctors as they struggle to make sense of this debilitating condition. At different times, patients have been depicted as possessed by demons, or simply “inspired,” as hearing voices, suffering from a “split-mind,” or merely having difficulty in “integrating” experiences. Now, a century after its birth, schizophrenia is increasingly viewed not as a radical, abnormal disease defined by an ever-changing cluster of symptoms, but the extreme end of a spectrum on which we are all located.
The story Ophir tells is a hopeful one: As patients and doctors sought to overcome stigma and improve therapeutic outcomes, they have shown ever-greater sensitivity to diversity and difference. Schizophrenia: An Unfinished History gestures toward a future in which clinicians and patients will collaborate in the search for better outcomes.
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