Imagined Elephant Disorder

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It is in the news again today, with a report out saying care for schizophenia in the UK is terrible.

Here is a quote worth reading: ‘Schizophrenia’ is a scientifically worthless, stigmatising label, which falsely groups people with a wide range of conditions together. It also fails to inform prognosis and treatment, and actually reduces people’s chances of recovery. (Bentall, Hammersley & Romme, Manchester University, 2006)

It is now being argued by an increasing swell of enlightened medics that these peoples’ behaviour is the natural reaction to a whole spectrum of overwhelming or catastrophic life events that cause clients to find ways to avoid facing the agonising realities of a particularly unattractive life. (Who can blame them?)

I agree. Here is my prescription:

1. Dispense with the stale old label – however professionally convenient it may have been to have it – and along with it get rid of the crippling thought that you’re stuck with it for life. You’re not.

2. Sort out those damaging life events, the limiting beliefs and thinking that result in a self-reinforcing feedback loop of deep personal emotional pain.

3. Provide an increase in resilience and personal power, and create new resourceful alternatives to current auto responses.

In other words, deal with the CAUSES. There are some amazingly powerful tools now available to the ‘talking therapies practitioner’ that mean the client/patient is free from the persistent unhappiness and suffering incurred by the retention of those things in their neurology. Often for ever.

And as a little bonus for all concerned, it will not cost the NHS (ie, the UK taxpayer) the estimated £12 billion a year. That’s £461 a year for each of the 26 million UK income tax payers.

“An elephant in the surgery waiting room?  Yes, yes, my dear, of course there is!” (Hmmm. Andrew is suffering from Imagined Elephant Syndrome. DSM IV No: 54321. Now the pharmaceuticals rep. who was in last week said there’s a new drug available for that. What was it again?)


1. An increasing number of GPs are putting their professional lives at stake  – and some have lost their jobs – by staying curious about the elephant, asking themselves how it is others can see something that is invisible to them. (Perhaps they are recovering from Elephant Blindness Syndrome?)  More seriously, I just want to honour their honesty and thank them for their courage and invite them to keep looking. There is a whole herd of elephants in there.

2. If you can’t find anyone near you who can help you with this, email me or give me a call. Powerchange (check it out) is developing a healthy track record for Therapeutic Coaching, with NHS doctors using and recommending our services. (We don’t do ‘five minute miracle cures’ but we have a growing dossier of success testimonials.)

For the hardy, here are some links:

One thought on “Imagined Elephant Disorder”

  1. Great article Andrew – and well done for addressing an issue that is usually suppressed by drugs in clinical terms and bland generalisations in crititical terms.

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