Schizophrenia & the Biological Perspective

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Biological Perspective & Schizophrenia

Q. Does the Biological perspective in abnormal psychology make other perspectives obsolete? Answer with reference to one mental disorder of your choice. (35% of total module marks).

Psychologists have been trying to understand mental illnesses, and many years ago, the biological perspective was the most popular due to its scientific nature. Schizophrenia – a chronic condition whereby patients lose touch with reality – was best explained by the Dopamine Hypothesis for example. However, recent progression in Schizophrenia research emphasizes the importance of non-biological factors as well, such as environmental stressors. Thus a Diathesis-Stress model is generally accepted by many today.

Schizophrenia is seen as a disease caused by the over-activity of dopamine receptors in the mesolimbic pathway i.e. the Dopamine Hypothesis (Richard Hall, 1998).This consequently increases the levels of dopamine in our brains, said to cause hallucinations and delusions in patients. To prove this, amphetamines (drugs that increase dopamine levels in the brain) were administered to rats in small dosages Randrup et al. (1966), which produced rotational behaviour – said to be associated with hallucinations. PET brain scans further showed that dopamine levels had infact increased. The main critism facing the conclusions of such studies is that humans and animals have different physiology. This thus limits generalisability. However, similar investigations have been carried out on humans, despite ethical concerns, but yielding consistent results.

Anti-psychotic drugs – most effective being Clozapine – were created, so as to reduce dopamine levels. These have shown to be highly effective in calming patients down and helping them cope with the illness, especially concerning hallucinations and delusions.

However, there is a lot more to the disorder i.e. social withdrawal, apathy, alogia and inability to communicate emotion through...
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