The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) defines schizophrenia as “a serious mental illness that interferes with a person’s ability to think clearly, manage emotions, make decisions and relate to others.” But lately, more people are speaking out against the term schizophrenia — translated from the Greek phrase skhizein phren, or "to split mind" — which saying the word itself is stigmatized and harmful to use. So a new study published in Schizophrenia Research suggests the illness be categorized as something else entirely.

Researchers from the University of Verona (UV) in Italy, the Association for the Improvement of Mental Health Programs in Switzerland, and The Australian National University reviewed previously published literature on the issue of renaming schizophrenia, weighing the pros and cons of those changes. In total, there were 47 papers, and among them, researchers found the advantages outweighed the disadvantages. Renaming schizophrenia would “reduce stigma and benefit communication between clinicians, patients, and families.”

“The literature, from both Eastern and Western countries, consistently shows that the term schizophrenia holds a negative stigmatizing connotation,” Dr. Antonio Lasalvia, lead study author of the department of public health and community medicine at UV, told The Daily Beast. “This negative connotation is a barrier for the recognition of the problem itself, for seeking specialized care, for taking full advantage of specialized care. It is therefore useless and sometimes damaging.”

The Daily Beast reported of the words used to categorize mental illness, so many are used to connote “being broken or disorganized.” There are even those who use the term to generally refer to anything at all that seems insane, crazy, or unhinged. And for patients who are actually diagnosed with the disorder, they’re afraid to say so for fear of others writing them off as a crazy.

However, schizophrenia stems from problems with brain chemisty and structure, NAMI reported; it’s a combination of genetic and environmental factors not unlike many other medical illness. Cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to be particularly effective in treating schizophrenia patients, and psychosocial rehabilitations can help patients “successfully live in independent housing, pursue education, find jobs, and improve social interaction.”

Schizophrenia wouldn’t be the only mental illness to undergo a name change. Multiple personality disorder, for example, is now referred to as dissociative identity disorder. Lasalvia and his team added that while these changes reduce stigma, and ultimately better the state of mental health care, there need to also be “parallel changes in legislation, services, and the education of professionals and the public.”

Source: Lasalvia A, et al. Should the label “schizophrenia” be abandoned? Schizophrenia Research. 2015.