Abnormal Psychology- Schizophrenia

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Abnormal Psychology - Schizophrenia

Introduction

There are a number of problems with defining psychological abnormality. They include problems with cultural relativity and social norms, what is normal within one culture or society may be considered abnormal within another. There are also problems with statistics as some abnormalities have too few or too many statistics to compare and the statistics may not always be reliable. Under the medical model all psychological disorders are considered illnesses. There are two classification systems to diagnose different disorders. These are the International Classification of Diseases & Health Related Problems (ICD) and Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The most up to date editions currently in use are ICD-10 and DSM-IV although DSM-V is due to be released in May 2013. (Jabr, F (2013))

Schizophrenia

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) schizophrenia is a severe form of mental illness. It is a treatable psychological condition that affects 24 million people worldwide. It mainly affects 15-35 year olds and is more likely to occur in males but anyone of any age or gender, can develop the condition. It affects thinking, perceptions and language and causes the patient to hear voices and to have hallucinations and delusions.

Symptoms

ICD-10 diagnostic criteria
• At least one of:
o Thought echo, thought insertion/withdrawal/broadcast o Passivity, delusional perception
o  Third person auditory hallucination, running commentary o Persistent bizarre delusions
• or two or more of:
o Persistent hallucinations
o Thought disorder
o Catatonic behaviour
o Negative symptoms
o Significant behaviour change
• Duration
o   More than 1 month
• Exclusion criteria
o Mood disorders, schizoaffective disorder
o Overt brain disease
o Drug intoxication or withdrawal (Wing, J.K. & Agrawal, N.(2009))

Behavioural Explanations and Therapies

The behavioural approach suggests that schizophrenia is simply learned behaviour learned through operant conditioning. Sammons (2008) suggests that the reason schizophrenia tends to run in families is due to children learning the behaviour from their parents. Social learning theory also suggests that although there may be some symptoms present once a patient is around others with schizophrenia they learn symptoms by seeing others demonstrate them. It is difficult to explain how the hallucinations and delusions suffered by a schizophrenic can be explained as learned behaviour; true behaviourists think this is irrelevant as they are only concerned with the physical behaviours not what is happening in the mind. Paul and Lentz (1977) carried out a study into operant conditioning as a treatment for schizophrenia. They set up a token economy on a hospital ward where they rewarded patients for appropriate behaviour by giving them tokens that they could exchange for luxury items. It was found that only 11% of the patients in the test group continued to require drugs for their symptoms compared to 100% of the control group. (AQA, (2010)) This demonstrates that operant conditioning as a treatment is very effective; however behaviourists do not care whether the patient is still hearing voices as long as they behave like they are not. In the Paul and Lentz study the patients may still hear voices but have simply learned that if they behave as though they are not they will be rewarded. This means that the schizophrenia has not actually been cured.

Biological Explanations and Therapies

There have been a number of studies conducted that suggest there is a biological cause for schizophrenia. Through family resemblance studies it has been discovered that a normal person with no family history of schizophrenia has around a 0.2-2% chance of developing the condition, whereas a person with one schizophrenic parent has a...
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