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Schizophr Bull. 2001;27(2):181-5.

Impact of the term schizophrenia on the culture of ideograph: the Japanese experience.

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  • 1Division of Adult Mental Health, National Institute of Mental Health, National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry, Ichikawa, Japan.


The ideographic Chinese writing system (in use in Asian countries that account for about a quarter of the world's population) directly expresses the meaning of schizophrenia as "the disease of disorganized mind." The term directly challenges a deeply ingrained concept of personal autonomy, and this is stigmatizing. Japanese psychiatrists are thus reluctant to tell their patients that they are suffering from schizophrenia, and, as a result, no more than 20 percent of sufferers actually do know about their diagnosis. Because taking medication is based on informed consent and the exercise of the patient's autonomy, such lack of information has important negative effects. It is unlikely that this problem can be resolved by education or information alone, and it may well be the case that in cultures using ideographs, the illness will need to be renamed. This article suggests some alternatives.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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