The attitudes of Japanese psychiatrists toward their patients who suffer from schizophrenia were investigated. We were concerned specifically with whether the psychiatrists inform their patients of the suspected diagnosis. We discuss how the term ‘schizophrenia’ may influence a psychiatrist’s decision to inform his patients of the diagnosis. A self-reported questionnaire was distributed to 150 executive board members of the Japanese Society of Psychiatry and Neurology and analysis of the data obtained from 110 respondents was carried out. The results showed that the concepts that psychiatrists use when they give a diagnosis of schizophrenia vary considerably. Fifty-nine per cent of the respondents informed their patients of a diagnosis of schizophrenia on a case-by-case basis, while 37% informed only the patients’ families. A tree analysis showed that the most important predictors for informing the patients of the diagnosis were assumptions about the public image of schizophrenia and a negative impression of the term schizophrenia, translated as ‘Seishin Bunretsu Byou’ in Japanese. The results revealed that the Japanese term for schizophrenia influences a psychiatrist’s decision to inform patients of the diagnosis and that, by changing the term to a less stigmatized one, the disclosure of information about schizophrenia to patients would be promoted.