Sunday, October 23, 2011

More on How Lousy Psychiatrists are at Determining Prognosis

A few days ago I put up my post on the Clinical Psychiatry News website on Rethinking Bipolarity.  I talked about how we've expanded the diagnosis so that now it captures so many problems as to make the diagnosis imprecise and I talked about how we really can't predict prognosis.  In the same vein, the front page of the New York Times has an article about people with schizophrenia who do better if they keep busy with busy careers, even if they are very stressful.  In a High Profile Executive Job as Defense Against Mental Illness, Benedict Carey writes:

Now, a group of people with the diagnosis is showing researchers a previously hidden dimension of the story: how the disorder can be managed while people build full, successful lives. The continuing study — a joint project of the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of Southern California; and the Department of Veterans Affairs — follows a group of 20 people with the diagnosis, including two doctors, a lawyer and a chief executive, Ms. Myrick.

The study has already forced its authors to discard some of their assumptions about living with schizophrenia. “It’s just embarrassing,” said Dr. Stephen R. Marder, director of the psychosis section at U.C.L.A.’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, a psychiatrist with the V.A. Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System and one of the authors of the study. “For years, we as psychiatrists have been telling people with a diagnosis what to expect; we’ve been telling them who they are, how to change their lives — and it was bad information” for many people. 

It's a good article, but I have one gripe with it (...ah, for me to have only one gripe with an article by Mr. Carey is close to amazing).  He makes it sound like people with schizophrenia have chosen less stressful jobs because that's what doctors recommend.  I think some people with schizophrenia lose their motivation to work at any job because it's one symptom of the illness.  Like bipolar disorder,  schizophrenia and schizoaffective illness seem to play out differently in different individuals.  As a field, our crystal balls don't seem to work very well.