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  • 7/16/2012

Is It Possible Recove Compeletly from Schizophrenia?

part 2


Factor #4: Connecting with their aliveness. All participants reported how important it was for them to connect more deeply with themselves””particularly with their feelings, needs, and sense of self agency. And again, they all reported finding significant hindrance to this factor coming from the mainstream treatment they had received””both from the inner conflicts arising from the belief of having a diseased brain as well as from the serious aliveness-dampening psychiatric drugs they were on.

Factor #5: Dealing with their relationships. All participants expressed the importance of healing and/or distancing themselves from unhealthy relationships and cultivating healthy ones. They all felt that unhealthy relationships played a significant role in their vulnerability to developing psychosis in the first place, and so this kind of work was extremely important. A number of them expressed gratitude to a therapist or friend who facilitated this work.

So, as we look at the sum total of these recovery factors, what we find is the rather disturbing idea that the mainstream paradigm of care for psychosis/schizophrenia may often cause more of a hindrance than a benefit in one’s recovery. In particular, there are two generally unquestioned aspects of the mainstream paradigm of care that should probably be seriously reconsidered:

(1) In spite of the widespread belief that one must remain on antipsychotics or similarly powerful psychiatric drugs for the duration of one’s life, the emerging recovery research reveals a very different picture. Not only have we discovered this in my own research, but the most recent longitudinal research conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health (no less) paints a very similar picture. This study essentially consisted of following a number of people diagnosed with schizophrenia in a non-interfering manner, simply allowing them to go about their lives in their own way, and allowing them to choose what kind of treatment they wanted. At the 15 year mark, it was found that of those who chose to stop taking their psychiatric drugs, 44% were considered “recovered,”‌ compared to only 5% of those who have remained compliant with these prescriptions. This is a difference of nearly nine-fold in favor of those who stopped taking their prescribed psychiatric drugs. The World Health Organization studies have also shown in the so called “developing”‌ countries in which psychiatric drug use is quite rare, well over half of those diagnosed with schizophrenia have gone on to make full recoveries, compared to only about a third of those in the U.S. and other so called “developed”‌ countries, where psychiatric drug use is much more common.

So we find ourselves in quite a predicament. On one hand, it’s considered extremely dangerous to suggest that those diagnosed with schizophrenia should consider coming off these drugs, and even the mention of this possibility is considered one of the worst forms of taboo within the mental health field; but on the other hand, the research suggests that for many people, this is exactly what is called for.

 Of course, the research also shows that coming off these powerful drugs is very risky and should be done very slowly and under the careful guidance of a professional.

(2) Another major aspect of the mainstream treatment model that we find particularly problematic is the practice of trying to convince someone that they have a brain disease from which they will likely never recover. But the reality is that the brain-disease hypothesis remains unsubstantiated (see Rethinking Madness for a thorough discussion of this), and that full and lasting recovery is quite common. We also find that the hopelessness so often generated by this belief often leads to a self fulfilling prophecy ”” it appears to be very difficult to experience real recovery when you don’t believe it’s possible. Considering these points, then, it’s clear that we need to seriously reconsider the harm/benefit ratio of pushing these beliefs onto people and even the ethical implications of continuing to do so.

So we find ourselves at a crucial juncture in our treatment of people diagnosed with schizophrenia and other related psychotic disorders. We can take the path of least resistance, ignoring the results of the emerging recovery research, and carry on with treatment as usual, continuing to pay the ever increasing costs of this treatment model to society, the diagnosed individuals, and their families. Or we can take up the challenge of really embracing the emerging recovery research and its implications. This path will surely require a major overhaul of our mental health care system, but it offers the potential of significantly more hopeful outcomes for those so diagnosed as well as the greatly reduced burden on our increasingly struggling society as a greater percentage of people recover and regain the ability to take care of themselves. The choice is ours.


Harrow M, & Jobe TH (2007). Factors involved in outcome and recovery in schizophrenia patients not on antipsychotic medications: a 15-year multifollow-up study. The Journal of nervous and mental disease, 195 (5), 406-14

Hopper, K., Harrison, G., Janca, A., & Sartorius, N. (2007). Recovery from schizophrenia: An international perspective: A report from the WHO Collaborative Project,

Other Links:

Signs and symptoms of schizophrenia

Types of schizophrenia

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