Friday, May 17, 2013

When Did Schizophrenic Suddenly Mean 'Nonsensical' or 'Self-Contradictory'?

In the last year the word "schizophrenic" has been bandied around, usually by journalists, to refer to some suddenly changing their mind, making an about-face, or just being relatively nonsensical. For instance: Put together, the outfit was rather schizophrenic or North Korean rhetoric regarding nuclear arms has been schizophrenic.

The illness schizophrenia has even been appropriated. Thursday The Washington Post published a piece by Greg Sargent entitled "Beltway narrative schizophrenia." Sargent is referring to the GOP's efforts to draw attention to several key events, like the IRS targeting Tea Party nonprofits to the Justice Department seizing AP phone records. Like any party, they want issues of mismanagement in the opposing party to gain traction and count against the administration.

How is a political party's deliberate tactical effort to draw attention to issues they want the public to focus on anything like an incurable, biological, neurodegenerative mental illness?

Why is it perfectly acceptable to bandy around the label schizophrenia or schizophrenic? It's as if schizophrenia is a unicorn, rather than a real disease that affects 1% of the population, a disease that ruins lives, can destroy families, can never been cured and often doesn't respond to treatment.

Is it any more appropriate than referring to something or someone as a cancer? If that goes too far, then why doesn't this? 

My mother hates when people use "schizophrenic" to refer to something other than schizophrenia. She's very likely to tell a person that if they think that decision the judge made on some reality show was "schizophrenic" she's likely to ask:

You mean the decision had a very promising career and then fell ill, lost the ability to work, and has lived with me ever since?

Before you use schizophrenia to refer to just any old thing, consider the illness you're talking about. If anything, it's very hard to change a schizophrenic's mind. They don't flip flop often. Schizophrenia is not related to self-contradiction or the inability to make or stick to a decision.

Just think. Is it really schizophrenic?
  1. Does it have legitimate trouble telling the difference between what's real and unreal?
  2. Does it exhibit paranoia or disorganized thinking?
  3. Does it see or hear things that aren't there?
  4. Have these things made it difficult for it to maintain a job or go to school?
  5. Could it no longer maintain friendships or other relationships?
  6. Did it withdraw and stop finding happiness in the things that once brought them joy? 
  7. Did it stop speaking?
  8. Did it stop bathing, changing/washing clothes, and other hygiene habits?
  9. Did it keep you up all night accusing you of letting people into the house so it could place listening devices in the TV?
  10. Has it tried a lot of different medications with varying success and failure?
  11. Does it break your heart because you know it might not be at your wedding because it is so often hospitalized?

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