Schizophrenia: An Autobiography

Review of: The Kingdom of the Lost. By J. A. Howard Ogdon. (Pp. 256. 10s. 6d.) London: John Lane, the Bodley Head, Ltd.

British Medical Journal, 24 April 1948, p. 790

The description by a schizophrenic of the experiences he has undergone during the acute phase of his illness is always a matter of great psychiatric interest, and especially so when the patient is a man of ability and learning. To these advantages Mr. Ogdon adds those of very unusual powers of introspection, a clear memory of past experience, and a gift for graphic writing. There can be little doubt that his book will be of interest to the intelligent lay public. To the psychiatrist it is likely to become a classic among self-descriptions.

   Mr. Ogdon's illness lasted for about three years, and during this time he had several phases when symptoms were florid, each of which passed off leaving residual disabilities. A striking feature throughout was the development of symbolizations, by which every person, almost every object in his neighbourhood, numbers, colours, letters of the alphabet, and so on, came to have a symbolic meaning with the force of reality. Mental and physical activities were tied down by compulsions and inhibitions associated with these symbolic meanings. His account of the " heroic " phase, in which the patient felt that he controlled the world by his power over its symbols, makes fascinating reading.

   Mr. Ogdon believes he is almost unique among schizophrenics in having cured himself without medical aid. Of the reality of the cure there can be little doubt, although the selfconscious psychiatrist is likely here and there to pick on a sequence of thought or a mode of expression that bears a schizophrenic stamp. Nor can there be much doubt that Mr. Ogdon did a very great deal to help himself, though once again those who are not disciples of Yoga or of Baudouin will be unable to follow him all the way in what he says. The main help that these mental disciplines provided was probably not in halting the progress of the disease, which seems to have unldergone a spontaneous remission, but in enabling the patient to rid himself of residual symptoms. Mr. Ogdon's criticisms of the law relating to certification and of the standards of treatment meted out in mental hospitals will be read with sympathy. He may rest assured that, in the second of these, matters are changing very rapidly, and a change in the first is inevitable in the not very distant future.