stressful life events and schizophrenia

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Psychopathology (schizophrenia)
Stressful life events and schizophrenia
Description (AO1)
Specific stressful events such as the breakup of a marriage or the death of a
loved one is thought to be the cause of schizophrenia. It is possible that high
levels of cortical arousal in connection with neurotransmitters, changes are
Evaluation (AO2)
Brown and Birley showed that 50% of people experienced a stressful event
3 weeks before a schizophrenic episode, whilst only 12% reported a
stressful event 9 weeks before a schizophrenic episode. This suggests that
stressful events can have an immediate effect.
Hirsch showed life events have more of a cumulative effect. They followed
71 schizophrenics and recorded stressful events in a 12 month period
leading to a relapse. This shows that small stressful events such as daily
hassles, can lead to schizophrenic when they accumulate.
The evidence is contradicted by a study by Van Os, who found no link
between stressful events and schizophrenia. This means that we cannot be
sure that stress causes schizophrenia. Van Os actually found that those who
suffered major stressful events were less likely to become schizophrenic.
The relationship between stress and schizophrenia is correlational; the
stress of a loss of a job could be due to the early symptoms of
schizophrenia, rather than the actual cause of the disorder.
Social causation can lead to a higher rate of being schizophrenic as the
society you live in can affect the levels of stress you experience. If you
live in a lower class society you will be more stressed as you will experience
more hardships such as higher crime rates (causing you to fear for your own
safety), poor diet, and lower wages or chances of employment.
This is supported by evidence from Afro- Caribbean's who came over
to the UK after the Second World War. They lived in low class/
local authority housing so experienced a low quality of life. It was
found that they were 7 times more likely to be diagnosed as
schizophrenic, when they moved over to Britain. However it could be
that the higher rates of schizophrenia in Britain is due to cultural
differences and diagnosis. This means that social causation may not
be the cause of this trend.


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