Illness beliefs in schizophrenia

Peter Kinderman, Erika Setzu, Fiona Lobban, Peter Salmon

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Beliefs about health and illness shape emotional responses to illness, health-related behaviour and relationships with health-care providers in physical illness. Researchers are beginning to study the illness beliefs of people with psychosis, primarily using models developed in relation to physical illness. It is likely that modifications to these models will be necessary if they are to apply to mental disorders, and it is probable that some of the assumptions underlying the models will be inappropriate. In particular, different dimensions of understanding may be present in mental illness in comparison to those identified in physical illness. The present study examines the beliefs of 20 patients in the UK diagnosed with schizophrenia, including 10 currently psychotic inpatients and 10 outpatients in remission, about their experiences, using qualitative interviews and thematic analysis. Patients currently experiencing psychosis did not identify their experiences as separable 'illnesses' and did not have 'illness beliefs'. Patients currently in a period of remission appraised their experiences as distinct from their own normal behaviour, but used conceptual frameworks of understanding that deviated significantly from conventional 'health belief' models. Patients' ways of understanding mental illness did not parallel those described in physical illnesses. Methods for assessing beliefs about mental illness should therefore not be transferred directly from studies of beliefs about physical illness, but should be tailored to the nature of patients' beliefs about mental illness. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1900-1911
    Number of pages11
    JournalSocial Science and Medicine
    Issue number7
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2006


    • Health belief model
    • Illness beliefs
    • Insight
    • Mental disorder
    • Psychosis
    • Schizophrenia
    • UK


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