Accepted Paper:

Understanding the experience of psychosis  


Lydie Fialova (Edinburgh University)

Paper short abstract:

My research explores different ways of understanding illness in acute and chronic schizophrenia. I examine the use of biomedical explanations of the origins of illness in the narratives of patients, and the role of the category of disease in the neutralization of the moral space.

Paper long abstract:

The experience of psychosis transforms the sense of self as well as the life-worlds of patients, and is often disruptive to and destructive of social relationships. I am interested in the ways in which patients understand the origins and nature of their illness, how the category of illness is constituted in the dialogue with psychiatrists, and how this category is adopted and often creatively transformed in the narratives of the patients. The category of illness allows for the externalization of agency, drawing a distinction between oneself and the illness, and the neutralization of the moral space of the relationships within which patients live. However, the category of illness becomes problematic in cases of chronic schizophrenia, where the distinction between oneself and the illness is not so easy to draw. I explore alternative understandings of psychotic experience and the ways in which patients and their relatives come to terms with their illness.

My work draws on research in acute and chronic psychiatric hospitals in the Czech Republic. In this particular context, the neurobiological orientation of psychiatry has been supported through a Marxist-materialist worldview that disregards alternatives to the biomedical conceptualization of mental illness. Also, the religious framework of understanding the 'supernatural elements' of psychotic experience is not readily available, and the cultural landscape of understanding schizophrenia is rather different from countries that were exposed to the psychoanalytic influence.

Panel W039
Producing the ordinary in the face of crisis