Schizophrenia does NOT exist, article by Dutch Jim Van Os and co-writers

Here is a roughly translated article from Dutch, Jim Van Os and co-writers stating that schizophrenia does NOT exist. TEDx talk by Jim Van Os

  • Let us all forget the diagnosis Schizophrenia.
    Schizophrenia doesn’t exist. And thus we should stop diagnosing it. Psychosis does exist. And luckily we are able to do something about that. This was written by Jim van Os and five others.

Jim van Os is co-founder of (schizophreniadoesn’ Wilma Boevink is senior Researcher at the Trimbos-institute and co-founder of the same above site. Rutger Jan van der Gaag is chairman of the Doctorsfederation KNMG. Aartjan Beekman is chairman of the Dutch Association for Psychiatry. Robert Vermeiren is chairman for the department of Children and Youth Psychiatry of the Dutch Association for Psychiatry. Rutger Engels is chairman of the Board of Directors of the Trimbos institute..

Schizophrenia doesn’t exist. Yes, you are reading this correctly. Schizophrenia, that is the illness that is unjustly known as the illness of “a split mind”, doesn’t exist. Psychosis does exist. About 3% of the general population suffers from it, whether it’s as an adolescent or a young adult. Someone who’s psychotic, experiences reality under the influence of his or her personal feelings in such a different way that it’s hard for people to understand.

That kind of incomprehensiveness is also seen with other mental disorders, for example with depression or anxiety disorders. The difference is, that in those cases, therapists are ready to help. People with psychosis are classed as hopeless cases. And that is just plain nonsense. Because research shows that people who are experiencing psychosis, can recover – with the right kind of help. And that’s not what they’re getting, and it’s because of these three reasons.

First of all, we’ve talked ourselves into a kind of pessimism when it comes to talks about the future of people with psychosis. This makes that hope and recovery aren’t automatically a central issue during any kind of therapy.

Secondly approaches which are demonstrably proven to work, like intensive support towards work and/or education, aren’t widely accessible.

And finally, because of the current way that the “market” works (diagnosis-prescription-list of symptoms), there’s no room in healthcare for the psychological process of recovery.

Because people with psychosis are getting too little help, they are needlessly tied to an empty existence, cast out from work and schooling, until they die a premature death. Premature indeed, since their lives are about a fifth shorter than the average Dutchman. A severe form of social injustice.

To put a stop to this, the website has been made, to provide people with psychosis, their surroundings and society an actual view on the matter. Our aim is to ban the term Schizophrenia within these next five years and to create more space for new ways to provide therapy and support for people with psychosis. We would like to do that under the premise of these next points:

  • It’s scientifically not possible to make a clear distinction between psychosis and other experiences. Psychosis is treatable.
  • Over 15% of adolescents and young adults has psychotic symptoms, during a normal course of their development. They hear voices or are paranoid in most cases. With 80% of them, these symptoms disappear on their own.
  • About 3.5% of people are suffering that much from their psychotic symptoms, that they have to seek professional help. Their diagnosis is sensitivity to psychosis: their symptoms are part of a psychotic syndrome that shows itself differently depending on the person.
  • The process of sensitivity to psychosis is variable and unpredictable. Only 20% of people who are suffering from it, have an unfavorable prognosis; most of them recover or learn to live with it.
  • A psychotic experience is more often than not a reaction to trauma, setback, disappointment, discrimination or humiliation – the experienced weight to carry, becomes too much for the individual.
  • The dominant view that psychosis is an expression of an underlying biomedical brain disease (Schizophrenia), is scientifically seen not correct. This kind of view helps harbor more negative expectations towards recovery and shouldn’t be a central theme in psycho-education.
  • Psychiatry classifies sensitivity to psychosis into all kinds of “schizo-diagnoses” (Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective, etc). But everybody has a different mixture of symptoms, and they don’t fit into one diagnostic label.
  • People with a psychotic syndrome must get hope and perspective from the first possible moment. Recovery is a psychological process. People have to learn to adapt to their sensitivity to psychosis, with support from schooled experts by experience and, where necessary, from doctors and therapists to support that recovery.
  • Everyone with a psychosis should get access from the very first moment to an expert by experience, who as none other can help give perspective and hope.
  • Going back to your own environment, education and/or work should be a priority in the treatment plan. Even if there are still residual symptoms, people can start picking up where they left of. Current practice to wait for full recovery is counterproductive.
  • Anyone who enters the mental health system with a psychosis, should be encouraged to talk about it. The contents of the psychosis should be taken serious and meaningful, since those are usually the key to underlying issues.
  • Anyone who suffers under a psychosis, should be offered psychotherapy by a therapist with experience in psychosis.
  • Antipsychotics could be necessary to soften extreme experiences, but they can’t correct an underlying biological anomaly. An antipsychotic doesn’t cure.
  • Schizophrenia doesn’t exist. Fortunately that is the case. Cause when it comes to psychosis, we can luckily do a lot.


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