Conceptualizations of Illness among Relatives of Patients Diagnosed with Schizophrenia

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Family concepts of a relative’s illness are an important part of the coping process and reveal the cultural construction of the experience of illness. As part of a qualitative study conducted in the Schizophrenia Outpatient Clinic of the Department of Psychiatry, Escola Paulista de Medicina - UNIFESP, 14 relatives of eight outpatients diagnosed with schizophrenia were interviewed and invited to talk freely about their ideas and feelings concerning their relative’s problem. Qualitative analysis was used to identify categories of illness representations. Three main categories were discussed, including Problema de Nervoso, Problema na Cabeça and Problema Espiritual (Problem of the Nerves, Problem in the Head and Spiritual Problem). The authors present evidence of these categories as cultural constructions, and discuss the relevance of popular notions of illness to the understanding of the course and outcome of schizophrenia, and the planning of culturally meaningful interventions.



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