Schizophrenia - classification and explanations

Outlines and evaluates the classification and explanations(biological+psychological) of schizophrenia.

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  • Schizophrenia
    • Classification and diagnosis (AO1)
      • C) Duration
      • B) social/occupational dysfunction.
      • D) exclusion of mood disorders
      • A) Characteristic symptoms
      • E) Exclusion of known organic substances
    • The Characteristics
      • Profound disruption of cognition and emotion, which affects the persons language, thought perception and even sense of self.
      • 8% of schizophrenics diagnosed will commit a serious act of violence, higher than the 'normal' population but lower than other mental disorders such as depression.
      • Positive symptoms
        • Include hallucinations and delusions etc. that were not present before.
      • Negative symptoms
    • Psychological Explanations
      • Socio-cultural factors
        • Life events and schizophrenia - it was found that prior to a schizophrenic episode patients had reported twice as many stressful life events than the control group.
        • Family Relations - Bateson et al suggests that children who frequently receive contradictory messages from their parents are more likely to develop schizophrenia.
        • Labelling theory - social groups conduct rules to which its members must follow, schizophrenic symptoms are seen as a deviation away from these rules and so the person is labelled with schizophrenia. The label then can become a self fulfilling prophecy in that more schizophrenic symptoms will appear from it.
        • Socio-cultural factors AO2/AO3
          • Expressed emotion
            • Has lead to effective forms of therapy
              • However it is unclear to whether its the therapy or the family intervention that is having the effect
          • Family relations
            • tienari et al - adopted children who had schizophrenic biological parents were more likely to develop schizophenia.
              • However this difference was only shown when the adoptive family were rated as disturbed.
          • Labelling theory
            • Scheff (1974) - 18 studies, 13 were consistent to the theory and providing support for it
          • Life events
            • Correlation not causation - we cant say for sure that the major life events is cause of schizophrenia in fact it could be the other way round
            • Van Os et al - patients were more likely to have a major life event in the 3 months after diagnosis
      • Psychodynamic
        • Freud 1924 -schizophrenia is due to a regression to a pre ego state. If the schizophrenic had a bad childhood then this regression may have occurred before they had a chance to develop a sense of reality.
      • Cognitive
        • Acknowledges the role of biological factors, and says that the symptoms are a result of the person trying to understand. They turn to friends etc to confirm the validity of their experiences but the schizophrenic thinks they are hiding the truth, this is when delusions set in.
    • Biological Explanations
      • The dopamine hypothesis
        • The dopamine neurotransmitter fires to quickly or too often which causes the characteristic symptoms.
          • Comer 2003 - dopamine neurons play a key role in guiding attention. So disrupting this leads to the relating perception and though processes of schizophrenia.
        • Evidence
          • Amphetamines - stimulates the nerves cells containing dopamine causing the synapse to become flooded with the neurotransmitter, which can cause the characteristic symptoms of schizophrenia.
          • Anti-psychotic drugs - Blocks the activity of dopamine in the brain, which eliminates the positive symptoms
          • Parkinsons disease - Sufferers have low dopamine levels. It was found that patients taking dopamine drugs to treat parkinsons were developing schizophrenia
        • AO2/AO3
          • Post-mortem studies - showed that schizophrenics who took antipsychotics shortly before death showed increased levels of dopamine and those who hadnt showed normal levels
          • Neuro-imaging - PET scans have allowed us to investigate dopamine activity more closely. however it is yet to show us any convincing evidence that altered dopamine levels are the cause of schizophrenia.
      • Genetics
        • Gottesman and shields - reviewed 5 twin studieslooking for concordence rates for schizophrenia. It was found that identical twins had a concordance rate of 35-58% and non identical twins had a concordance rate of 9-26%. They also found a concordance rate of 75-91% in identical when the sample was restricted down to the most severe cases.
        • AO2/AO3
          • Not a representitive sample
          • Small sample size.
          • Reductionist
          • Nature/Nurture
          • Too significant to dismisss


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