What’s in a Name? Experts Debate Name Change for Schizophrenia

For decades, the label “schizophrenia” has been the clinical term used to describe a particular classification of psychosis. For people without schizophrenia, and for those living with it, the term denotes a negative connotation and has a significant stigma attached to it, suggesting discrimination, labeling, isolation, social rejection, and power imbalance. To overcome this, discussions have emerged about whether or not to change the term “schizophrenia” to something that would be less stigmatizing.

Numerous suggestions have been made, but it appears the most accepted candidate is the term “salience syndrome.” The majority of experts in the scientific community agree that salience, which describes the internal process of reacting to and processing of stimuli, most closely describes the actual experience of individuals with schizophrenia. However, the clients themselves have yet to weigh in on this topic. As they are the ones to whom the label is assigned, and they themselves experience both external stigmatization and the effects of self-stigma, Constantin Tranulis of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Montreal in Canada wanted to assess their opinions on the topic.

Tranulis surveyed 161 college students and 19 clients who were in the early stages of psychosis and asked them about the acceptability, validity, and impact of both diagnostic terms. The college students did not seem to prefer one term over the other. Tranulis found that the college students already had preconceived beliefs about the stigmatizing characteristics of the illness, including social rejection and discrimination, regardless of what name was assigned to it. The only difference in opinion was found in the psychology students, who had a slight preference for salience syndrome when compared to biology students. However, when Tranulis surveyed the clients, the results were quite different. The individuals with psychosis favored “salience syndrome” over “schizophrenia” almost unanimously.

The largest reason for their selection was that the name change could prevent them from experiencing the stigmatization associated with the well-known term of schizophrenia. But they also were concerned that eventually people would become aware that salience syndrome and schizophrenia were one in the same, and in time people with salience syndrome would be subjected to the same negative social behaviors. But perhaps the most important finding was that the clients felt less self-stigma with the term salience syndrome. In sum, the participants had varying views on label selection, but people who live with the ramifications of stigma seemed most sensitive to the options. Tranulis added, “Future studies with larger samples are warranted in order to clarify the role of labels on self-stigmatizing attitudes.”

Tranulis, C., Lecomte, T., El-Khoury, B., Lavarenne, A., Brodeur-Côté, D. (2013). Changing the name of schizophrenia: Patient perspectives and implications for DSM-V. PLoS ONE 8(2): e55998. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0055998

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  • janice


    May 8th, 2013 at 9:35 PM

    we cant keep changing names in the hope that people dont go “hey I know this” and discriminate or whatever! its a messy thing to do and if youre changing the name for schizophrenia then why not other symptoms?

    this will cause a lot more problems than it gives benefits.

  • Yvonne


    May 9th, 2013 at 3:52 AM

    It hasn’t yet caught on to change the word prunes to dried plums, so maybe this name change wouldn’t register with the general public either.

    It may have become so engrained in our psyche that this is what the disease is called that it will be hard for the public to change the terminology.

    May go over better in the clinical field than the real world.

  • Jada


    May 9th, 2013 at 8:01 AM

    I remember working in a psychiatric hospital for kids. It was extremely rare that a child was labeled with schizophrenia even is he/she showed all of the signs. The doctors knew what a hard road this child would have with this label, from school on up. I am glad to see that the medical community is considering changing the name. The last thing you want is children not to get help because someone is afraid of labeling them.

  • Marta


    May 9th, 2013 at 8:02 AM

    Changing the name won’t make people better. That is the goal, right? We need to change the treatment. A rose by any other name….

  • Horrace H

    Horrace H

    May 9th, 2013 at 8:13 AM

    I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed but i’ m not the dumbest either but what i can’t figure out is why they say there is a power imabalance? How is telling somebody they have schizowhatever make a power imbablance. I thought that was like if you bring a knife to a gun fight or somethign like that not a mental illness it just was kind of confusing.

  • Merriam


    May 9th, 2013 at 8:40 AM

    Yup-totally agreeing that telling somebody someone else has schizophrenia can create isolation for that person.

    When they told that to my sister didn’t nobody want to be around her.

    It was like she lost all her friends in one day and that just made me mad I have to say.

    My sister is a sweet girl most of the time and can’t help what she was born with

  • Crescent


    May 9th, 2013 at 8:42 AM

    Am I the only one who thinks that Salience Syndrome sounds like it has something to do with salt? Or contact lense solution? Can we not do any better here peeps?

  • juniper


    May 9th, 2013 at 8:47 AM

    well there you go
    you have the people who it affects the most telling you they like it better
    so what is the quesiton
    why would you even have to wonder what the right thing to do is
    if people would just use some common sense some times
    these things wouldn’t ever be an issue.

  • Yancy


    May 9th, 2013 at 12:18 PM

    Isn’t there anyone else who believes that a lot more thought should go into research for a cure instead of a name for the disease?

  • Sarah Marie

    Sarah Marie

    May 9th, 2013 at 12:27 PM

    Schizophrenia is such a sad disease. It struck my son when he was 23 and completely robbed him of a chance at a normal life. His girlfriend of five years left him (not that I blame her at all; rather, she needed to). He had just graduated from college and started a job that he then lost within six months. It is so heart breaking to watch everything he worked so hard for go up in flames for something he had absolutely no control over. Now, he is looking at a future filled with strife and turmoil and is getting very depressed. I can see where the stigma comes from.

  • Norris


    May 9th, 2013 at 12:29 PM

    if you wanna know what i think it going to happen:
    go ahead and change the name what do you think will come next? Everybody’s just gonna know exactly what it means.

    Nobody is gonna be fooled for 2 seconds it is just like calling a mutt an All American breed dog

    these people deserve to have a good life without people judging them every five seconds i don’t think changing a name is going to make that happen.

  • C.J.


    May 9th, 2013 at 12:31 PM

    if the people who have it want it changed, what’s the hold up?
    What does anybody else care?
    Is it really any of anybody else’s business?
    CHANGE IT!!!!!

  • Pearsy


    May 9th, 2013 at 12:34 PM

    So i guess they didn’t think it was worthwhile. To ask people like me who are already farther into the disease. They said they asked people with the beginnigns of psychosis. Becuase clearly the rest of us don’t matter. To other people. I would think that we’d matter more. But according to this article we don’t know how. To think.

  • Ex

    Ex "schizophrenic"

    May 10th, 2013 at 7:14 AM

    “However, the clients themselves have yet to weigh in on this topic.”

    I’d hardly call psychiatry’s imprisoned slaves “clients”.

    If you’re locked up and labeled and drugged you’re not a “client”, you’re owned.

    I used to have this label, but I overcame my problems with alternatives to psychiatry’s quackery. Psychiatry is a false science that invents labels and then doles out tranquilizer drugs that shorten lives, shrink the rain and damage all your other organs.

    They told me I’d have to take these drugs for the rest of my life. They had my blind faith for a couple of years, then I got wise to their lies.

    I no longer take psychiatric drugs. The path to recovery begins with noncompliance and the total rejection of this “brain disease” lie. No doctor in the world puts the schizophrenia label on you by using a biological test.

    Therefore, nobody has proved your brain is diseased.

    The longer someone believes psychiatry’s lies the more disabled they’ll be.

  • Bree


    May 11th, 2013 at 5:05 AM

    I am not sure that this would be a good idea.

    Most people are already familiar with the term, and I don’t think that people who are actually educated about the subject hold any kind of preconceived notions about the disease. If they are thoughtful they know that it is never a good thing to make any kind of snap judgement about someone regardless of the diagnosis without first understanding the individual and his own unique experience. Some things are better left as is, and I think that since the recognition is already there then maybe the best thing to do is to keep it and focus on the future and how we can make this something that doesn’t have to take away a person’s adult life from them.

  • Donna-1


    July 6th, 2013 at 7:19 PM

    Changing Manic Depression to Bipolar has not lessened the stigma. Changing Multiple Personality Disorder to Dissociative Identity Disorder has, to my way of thinking, only muddied the waters. It is just semantics. If you change Schizophrenia to Salience Syndrome, there would be just as much confusion and perhaps more about what the terms mean. Let’s change the public attitude through education instead of trying to guess which cup the pea is under.

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