Psychological explanations for schizophrenia

Psychological explanations for schizophrenia for aqa a. Includes psychodynamic and cognitive

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Psychological explanations of schizophrenia
Psychological theories
Freud (1924) believed that schizophrenia was the result of two related processes, regression to a
preego state and attempts to reestablish ego control.
If the world of the schizophrenic has been particularly harsh, for example if his or her parents were
cold and uncaring, an individual may regress to this early stage in their development before the ego
properly formed and before he or she had developed a realistic awareness of the external world.
Schizophrenia was thus seen by Freud as an infantile state, with some symptoms (e.g. delusions
and grandeur) reflecting this primitive condition, and other symptoms (e.g. auditory hallucinations)
reflecting the person's attempts to reestablish ego control.
This explanation of schizophrenia acknowledges the role of biological factors in causing the initial
sensory experiences of schizophrenia, but claims that further features of the disorder appear as
individuals attempt to understand those experiences.
When schizophrenics' first experience voices and other worrying sensory experiences, they turn to
others to confirm the validity of what they are experiencing. Other people fail to confirm the reality of
these experiences, so the schizophrenic comes to believe that others must be hiding the truth. They
begin to reject feedback from those around them and develop delusional beliefs that they are
being manipulated and persecuted by others.
Sociocultural factors
Life events and schizophrenia
A major stress factor that has been associated with a higher risk of schizophrenic episodes is the
occurrence of stressful life events. These are discrete stresses, such as the death of a close relative
to the breakup of a relationship.
A study by Brown and Birley (1968) found that, prior to a schizophrenic episode patients who had
previously experienced schizophrenia reported twice as many stressful life events compared to a
health control group.
Family Relationships
Doublebind theory
Bateson et al. (1956) suggest that children who frequently receive contradictory messages from
their parents are more likely to develop schizophrenia. For example, if a mother tells her son that she
loves him while turning her head away in disgust the child receives two conflicting messages about
their relationship on different communicative levels, one of affection on the vernal level, and one of
animosity on the nonverbal level.
The child's ability to respond to the mothers incapacitated by such contradictions because one
message invalidates the other. These interactions prevent the development of an internally
coherent construction of reality, and in the long run, this manifests itself as schizophrenic
symptoms (e.g. flattened affect and withdrawal). These ideas were echoed in the work of psychiatrist
R.D. Laing, who argues that what we call schizophrenia is actually a reasonable response to an
insane world.

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Expressed emotion
Another family variable associated with schizophrenia is a negative emotional climate, or more
specifically, a high degree of expressed emotions. Expressed emotion (EE) is a family
communication style that involves criticism, hostility and emotional overinvolvement. High levels
of EE are most likely to influence a relapse rates. A patient returning to a family with high EE is about
four times more likely to relapse than a patient returning to a family with low EE (Linszen et al., 1997).…read more

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Yollowlees et al. (2002) have developed a machine that produces virtual hallucinations, such as
hearing the TV tell you to kill yourself, or one person's face morphing into another. The intention is to
show schizophrenics that their hallucinations are not real. As yet there is no evidence that this will
provide a successful treatment.
Life events and schizophrenia
Not all evidence supports the role of life events. For example, van Os et al. (1994) reported no link
between life events and the onset of schizophrenia.…read more

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Labelling theory
In a review of the evidence, Scheff (1974) evaluated 18 studies explicitly related to labelling theory.
He judged 13 to be consistent with the theory and 5 to be inconsistent, thus concluding that the
theory was supported by the evidence.
A study which he assessed as supporting labelling theory was the Rosenhan study. Rosenhan found
that once the `label' of schizophrenia had been applied, the `diagnosis' continued to influence the
behaviour of staff toward the patient, even when it was no longer warranted.…read more


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