This course deals with disorders of processes involving perception and thinking. In films or books, psychotic characters usually display bizarre and unpredictable behaviours that people generally have difficulty identifying with. Therefore, most people feel rather uncomfortable around someone who is (or has been) diagnosed as suffering from a psychotic disorder. The aim of this course is to make psychotic disorders more understandable, more predictable, and less bizarre for students. It aims in particular to allow them to view such disorders within the context of experiences they are familiar with. In principle, anyone can become psychotic, but some people are more prone to becoming so than others, and in some people such disorders are more likely to become chronic. More specifically, students will develop an in depth knowledge of the relationship between psychotic disorders and violent behaviour. This knowledge will be gained through considering questions such as ‘Can we argue that psychotic patients have an increased risk to become more violent? If so, does that relate to specific symptomatology, like hearing voices telling you to do certain things? And what about the possibility of feigning symptoms of a psychotic disorder?’ Psychotic disorders will be discussed from a variety of theoretical perspectives. The so-called diathesis-stress model will be used as a guiding principle. How this diathesis/predisposition/vulnerability is defined and which characteristics are related to it depends on the theoretical perspective taken. An individual’s presentation of psychotic symptoms can depend on a variety of conditions, such as the stress level experienced, ability to cope with stress, and protective factors such as availability of social support. During this course, it will become apparent that relatively little in the way of ‘hard empirical facts’ is known about psychoses in general and schizophrenia in particular. Another factor in present-day society, which is increasingly becoming more multicultural, is that psychoses can also have a different significance depending upon the cultural context. In this sense, this course will look at psychosis from a large number of theoretical perspectives, and students will be expected to delve into the various theories whilst developing an understanding of their strengths and limitations.
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Knowledge of: Diagnostics (DSM-IV), diagnostic instruments, clinical picture and differential diagnosis, neurobiological and psychosocial etiological models and treatment, relationship between violence and psychosis, aetiology of violence, command hallucinations, detection of feigned hallucinations and delusions, cultural aspects.