According the the UK group Mind, “Schizophrenia seems to affect roughly the same number of men and women. Most people diagnosed with schizophrenia are aged between 18 and 35, with men tending to be diagnosed at a slightly younger age than women.” Why?
The mainstream mental health system just claims that it is the nature of “illnesses” like “schizophrenia” to strike at a young age. I haven’t heard much about how they think this works, but the standard consensus is that the cause is “the illness.”
A more likely explanation I think comes from examining some other phenomena that also tends to hit at a young age, that is, the phenomena of creative achievement, and involvement in crime.
It may seem odd to start with to consider a possible connection between creative achievement, which we associate with the most worthwhile aspects of humanity, and crime, with which we associate with the worst in humanity. But recent studies, reported by Scott Barry Kaufman in his article The Dark Side of Creativity, show a pretty strong connection between creativity and a willingness to be dishonest or unethical in order to advance one’s own interests. One study even showed that just offering suggestions to people that encouraged their creativity also made them more dishonest.
Another earlier article, “Why productivity fades with age: The crime–genius connection” also addresses this connection between creativity and crime, and shows that both creativity and crime are much more common in younger people, and have to do with a developmental stage where young people take risks in order to find their place in the world. In other words, its a normal process in our species, experienced more by some than others, which can come out in either a positive or a negative way.
This data also suggests that the peak is earlier for males, in regards to both crime and creativity.
So how does this apply to psychosis? There is a lot of evidence that creativity and “mental disorders” such as psychosis are related: see this article. When creativity is turned toward crime society suffers, but it appears that creativity can also be mismanaged in a way that results in problems for the person themselves, and the result may be called “psychosis” or “schizophrenia.” This happens mostly in young people not because of an “illness” but because it is young people who take the wildest risks in order to find their place in the world (and young people who have a prior history of trauma may take some of the wildest risks, or do so with really inadequate support.)
Those who favor the illness model might point out that while being creative or criminal often peaks and then fades, “mental disorders” often last a lifetime. But this also could be understood by seeing the psychosis as result of experimentation in creating altered views of self and world, experiments that at least so far have led to more trouble than success. Once a person has created such altered views, they may stay in them or just get further lost, if nothing happens to help them in a better direction, and if the “help” that is offered is in fact unhelpful, as it too often is.
As time goes on, people may organize themselves to attempt to suppress their own creativity, since it seems it was their original thinking that got them into trouble. And the mental health system may operate along the same lines, giving drugs that suppress spontaneity and creativity, and convincing the person that they are “ill” so that the person does not put much faith in anything that emerges from their own mind. But this disconnection from one’s creativity, while it seems to be reducing risk, may be cutting the person off from a resource that would be vital in recovery.
We need a mental health system that recognizes both sides of creativity, the good and the bad, and that can collaborate with people in finding a way to creatively overcome past mistakes rather than just suppress the kinds of original and creative thinking which in fact are vital to the person and in the long run, to society as a whole.