Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice

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Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice - Early View Articles, Pages ${blockparams.parentJournalIssue.pageRange}

The beliefs of non‐psychiatric doctors about the causes, treatments, and prognosis of schizophrenia

Objectives To examine the causal beliefs about schizophrenia of non‐psychiatric doctors and whether differential belief in biogenetic vs. psychosocial causes influences doctors’ views about treatments and prognosis. Design and methods Three hundred and five non‐psychiatric doctors working in outpatient community centres completed the ‘Opinions on mental disorders Questionnaire’ after reading a clinical description of people with schizophrenia. Results The factors most frequently reported as causes of schizophrenia were heredity (65.2%) and use of street drugs (54.1%). Seventy‐five per cent of participants endorsed both one or more biological causal factors and one or more psychosocial causal factors. Of the 264 participants who expressed their opinion about the most important cause of schizophrenia, 53.8% indicated a biogenetic cause. Fifty‐two per cent of respondents thought it ‘completely true’ that drugs are useful in schizophrenia, and 33.9% thought it ‘completely true’ that people with schizophrenia must take drugs all their life. Participants stating that the most important cause was biogenetic more frequently recommended a psychiatrist and less frequently a psychologist. Compared to doctors who indicated a psychosocial cause as the most important one, those who indicated a biogenetic cause were more sceptical about recovery, more confident in the usefulness of drugs, and more convinced of the need of lifelong pharmacological treatments in schizophrenia. Conclusions These findings suggest the need to provide some doctors with training on the multiple, interacting causes of schizophrenia and the efficacy of the broad range of available treatments. The education of health professionals regarding stigma and its effects on clinical practice is also needed. Practitioner points Viewing schizophrenia as mainly due to a biological cause is associated with greater confidence in the usefulness of drugs, higher belief in the need for lifelong pharmacological treatments, and greater prognostic pessimism. Belief in a biologically oriented model of schizophrenia may lead doctors to underestimate the value of psychologists. Prognostic pessimism among doctors may negatively influence clinical decisions, the information doctors provide to their clients, and clients’ own beliefs about their chances of recovery. Belief in the need for lifelong pharmacological treatments in schizophrenia may lead doctors to resist drug withdrawal in case of severe side effects.

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