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Schizophrenia in the World: Arguments for a Contextual Phenomenology of Psychopathology

In: Journal of Phenomenological Psychology
Author:
Elizabeth Pienkos Clarkson University Potsdam, NY USA

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Abstract

Traditionally, phenomenological theories of schizophrenia have emphasized disturbances in self-experience, with relatively little acknowledgement of the surrounding world. However, epidemiological research consistently demonstrates a strong relationship between traumatic and stressful life events and the development of schizophrenia, suggesting that encounters in the world are highly relevant for many people diagnosed with this disorder. This paper reviews foundational texts in phenomenology and phenomenological psychopathology on the nature of subjectivity and its disturbances, finding support for broadening contemporary phenomenological models of schizophrenia to incorporate world events and their subjective meaning as essential aspects of this disorder. This contextual approach to phenomenology emphasizes the relationship between self and world, one that is especially unstable, unclear, and untrustworthy in schizophrenia. Both epidemiological and phenomenological research can benefit from this approach: in epidemiology, researchers might consider the ways that various risk factors are experienced by persons vulnerable to schizophrenia, while phenomenologists are encouraged to inquire about the environmental and social context in which altered experiences occur and incorporate these considerations into their explanatory models.

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