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Patients' and their relatives' causal explanations of schizophrenia

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Background: Previous studies with schizophrenia patients and their relatives which have been carried out in the western part of Germany and in Austria have demonstrated a strong tendency towards assuming psychosocial stress as a cause of schizophrenia. The question arises as to whether patients with schizophrenia and their relatives in the eastern part of Germany (former German Democratic Republic) share these beliefs. Methods: Problem-centered interviews were conducted with 100 schizophrenia patients living in the catchment area of the university hospital who were in psychiatric outpatient treatment. Thirty-six relatives were also interviewed at the same time. Results: Both patients and relatives most frequently reported psychosocial stress as a cause of the illness. Sixty-two per cent of the patients and 86 % of the relatives reported more than one cause. However, the majority of them did not explicitly link these causes to one another. Discussion: Similarities between the results of this study and those of previous studies prevail. However, there are some differences with regard to the role attributed to socialisation and society. Whereas there is a stronger tendency to hold the family responsible for the illness in the West, in the East the social conditions are more frequently considered to be of etiological relevance. Inconsistencies between patients' and relatives' beliefs and the results of psychiatric research on the causes of schizophrenia suggest a need to provide specific psychoeducation for both.

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Received: 28 October 2002 / Accepted: 4 November 2002

Correspondence to Dr. Anita Holzinger

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Holzinger, A., Kilian, R., Lindenbach, I. et al. Patients' and their relatives' causal explanations of schizophrenia. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 38, 155–162 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-003-0624-5

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  • Key words schizophrenia – patients – relatives – causal attributions